My alarm goes off… I’ll probably snooze it.
5:45 – 6:00 AM Okay, okay. I’m up… somewhat. My roommate and I groggily awaken from our slumber. However, by the time we hit the lights we are up and ready to go.
6:25 – 6:30 AM
My roommate and I usually head out at the same time –keyword- usually. The walk to GOMS isn’t too bad so we get there pretty fast.
I arrive at the Great Oaks Middle School, and depending on how early I am, I grab the packets for my students for tutorial that day and get my stuff together. I have a morning duty so I usually gather everything I need for my 7:50 tutorial ahead of time.
Either Ms.Helmy or myself will get the 7th grade homework cart and head downstairs to the building lobby to collect the 7th graders homework. This is easily one of the top 3 important duties I have being in the Corps. Reason being, we are responsible for inputting the homework for the day. If a student hasn’t done it, has done less than half of it or forgot their name it’s my responsibility that it is all-accurate. They have homework detentions after school and I want to make sure I’m on my A game.
7:35 AM – 8:50 AM
I leave my duty there and head to the 3rd floor where I grab my belongings for the first tutorial of the day. I’m a transition leader for 6th grade so I make sure I get there early. Luckily, my first tutorial is in the same place I transition so, I win. After Ms.Hunt and Ms.Francis lead their students out, I instruct “Team Smartacus” (it’s a play on Spartacus, their idea, not mine I swear these kids are awesome) to go to their tables for tutorial. In stroll the rest of the students in 409 for 6th grade math tutorial, and as timekeeper I instruct the room to silently begin their Do Now’s at a level zero. I watch my own “band of boys” as they quickly breeze through the Do Now and turn through the packet to see what the tutorial has planned for them. After the 5 minutes of silent working, tutorial has officially begun! I have three boys in my 6th grade group that are always full of energy and excitement despite the early morning start. I always start tutorial off by asking them about their night and morning then we get right into the material. My students really love to race against each other and me, so we spend a lot of time doing that. To check answers I let them determine for if they are correct and have them explain why. They love to do things mentally, which I tell them is great but they also need to show their work. I always ask “Why do we show our work?” and they all answer with a sigh “Because if we happen to get an answer wrong our teacher needs to see where we made the mistake to help us.” Exactly boys. Exactly. Tutorial comes to an end and I call the exit ticket, which is also done silently. I have them rip their exit ticket out, hand it to their tutor and get ready to transition. This time I actually have to move my group so I have them line up silently and we make our way down the hall to their next class, which is Social Studies. After the teacher says then can come in, I make my way to the third floor for homework insertion.
9:00 AM – 9:50 AM
I usually quickly insert the homework in for Tufts during this time to meet the 10 o’clock deadline. This usually takes me 10/15 minutes max and once I finish I make a quick cup of Joe and make sure I have everything for the next tutorial, and of course I do.
9:50 AM – 10:46 AM
Tutorial number 2! I work with two seventh grade girls who are extremely optimistic and bright. They’ve been reading The Outsiders as of late; so much of tutorial is centered around the themes, symbolism, review of that book. My favorite part of this tutorial is how they are able to connect The Outsiders to their own lives to better understand the material. They are so into the book which makes ELA tutorials that much sweeter. This is usually the tutorial that goes by the fastest, much to our dismay. We spend the last 5 minutes before the exit ticket on self proclaimed “girl talk” where we get to know each other better and form a really strong bond. It’s their favorite time, and mine too! Time for me to call the exit ticket and then I’m off to help Mr. Velasquez with 6th grade lunch.
10:50 AM – 11:15 AM
Time to eat! Well the kids at least. I quickly hustle to the 5th floor to help my Partner-In-Crime, Mr.Velasquez, with 6th grade lunch. He usually beats me there so is already setting up when I come join him. We’ve really got the lunch down to a science. Trays, main meal, bread, side option, fruit, and lastly milk. Some days the pattern differs but we try our best to stay consistent. Then in come the 90 or so hungry 6th graders, ready to eat their lunch. We are handing the food out at rapid speed, replenishing as we go. Seriously, there should be an award for this. My favorite part about lunch duty is interacting with the kids, boy are they a funny bunch. After we finish, we set up for the crew that is handing 7th/8th grade lunch and make our way out. Not before checking in to see our beloved Ms.Tabares, who is usually planning at a table nearby.
11:20 AM – 1:25 PM
2 HOURS OF FREE TIME. Just kidding. I have what seemingly looks to be a 2-hour break, however that 2 hours goes by faster than I can say “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.” I’m usually taking this time to plan my tutorial packets, insert grades into the system Power Teacher, log my positives/negatives, eat lunch, check my emails, call some family members, check in on my many GroupMe chats, joke around and share stories of tutorials with my colleagues, go visit some of the students during lunch, meet with a staff member and prepare for the next set of tutorials. A good two hours well spent.
1:25 PM – 2:30 PM
I transition “Team Smartacus” from ELA class to our ELA tutorial. I see my beloved three boys and ask how their days are going so far. The usual response is a groan and how tired they are, so I know that I have to bring it in ELA. 6th grade ELA is one of the tougher ones, especially when it comes to get them in the habit of annotating. However, it’s a process and they are now starting to understand why I nag them so much. Now they make it a habit on their own to pull out the highlighters and go at it. They are currently reading City of Ember and they love it so far. They have been learning to ask questions and make inferences in class so I encourage them to do that in tutorial as well. They have SO many questions, and I love it. The best thing to come out of tutorials (aside from when one of the kids gave us all nicknames that corresponded to the Greek Mythology figure we most embody) was when one of them asked “It seems as though we are behind everyone else when we read aloud, we never make it to the end!” Before I could respond his peer turns to him and says “That’s because we want to read for understanding, if we read just to read we don’t take anything in, we need to read with a purpose.” Alas, he is right. So that’s what we do, we read with a purpose. Snack has been handed out, exit tickets are collected and I transition my group to math.
2:30 PM – 3:26 PM
Time to be the best TA I can be. This is one of my favorite parts of the day! Aside from being a tutor, timekeeper, transition leader, lunch lady, I am also the 7th grade math TA for Mr. Gibbs. When I interviewed here back in February I sat in on one of his classes. I loved the way he taught, he keenly reminded me of a math teacher I had in elementary school that made me adore math, so naturally it was a perfect fit I should be his TA right? One thing I really enjoy about Mr. Gibbs is his strong belief in second chances. Every Friday I hand each scholar a packet with his or her graded homework for that week. We allow them to take home and bring back to correct whatever they got wrong to get extra points. As a TA I grade Tufts homework and exit tickets, make 7th grade math tutorial packets as well as help out during class. I love being in class with Tufts so I can observe how Mr. Gibbs teaches, as well as learn what the kids are having trouble with so I can incorporate that into the packets they will have for tutorial. I’ve established my own relationship with the scholars in Tufts so they have no problems coming to me with help or the occasional joke here or there. Class is over and it is now time for my last tutorial of the day, 7th grade math.
3:30 PM – 4:26 PM
This is the last tutorial of the day and my girls and I are usually super pumped. They never fail to mention how much they love math so tutorial is a breeze. They enjoy doing the work independently then swapping papers to grade each other’s work. They really love to motivate each other and help each other through problems they don’t understand. I just serve as a guide to get them there. I rarely like to feed them the answers, so I rather ask questions and see if they can figure it out on their own. They really appreciate that. So much so, they challenge me to compete with them, so I do. (And sometimes they do win.) My favorite moments are when we go over the problems and the answer I give as correct doesn’t match theirs. They quickly examine their work to figure out where they went wrong and 100% of the time they catch it and fix it before I say a word. Self-Discipline at its best! Like our ELA tutorial we spend the last minutes just talking, I like to stress to them that not only am I here to help you academically as a tutor, but both personally and socially as a mentor. That makes our relationship that much more meaningful.
4:30 PM – till the sun goes down
YES! The school day is officially over, but the work never stops there. Usually after school I stay around to help students with homework if they stay later. We also offer an additional hour of homework help called PowerUp every Monday and Wednesday. I also took on another role that I can’t wait to start as Cheerleading Coach. It’s myself and 3 other amazing tutors heading this up and I couldn’t be more excited. We will be having practice Monday-Thursday till 6 so I’ll be super busy, but it will be worth it. After having cheered for the past 9 years, I love being able to teach others what I know, as well as keeping them active, promoting healthy self-esteem and creating friendships.
At home or at school, depending on the day, I also do parent and student phone calls. An extremely important part of my job is keeping parents in the loop on their children’s progress and achievements at Great Oaks. I often receive phone calls from my students who are stuck on homework and need a bit of help. Sometimes they just want to talk too. Then, I eat dinner, work on packets, talk with my coworkers, and watch some TV (Shonda Thursdays anyone?) It’s been nearly two months and I already feel an attachment to my students and the Great Oaks mission. Sure it wont always be easy, but I’m up for the challenge. As I stated when we all stood in a circle and mentioned what we waned to get out of the year, I plan to impact someone’s life in a positive way. Whether it is one of the kids in my tutorial group, a cheerleader, a power up tutee, or a kid I see in passing, I plan to make the most of my year here. Education is something near and dear to me after facing hardships in my own education and there is nothing I love more than seeing young people of color exceeding beyond what they thought was possible. Knowing that there were people to fight for me to have the opportunities I have, I want to make sure the scholars I interact with have the same opportunities I was given and exceed expectations. Thus far this program has refueled my passion to be an educator and I’m grateful to have the chance to change the trajectory of these students life.
Jazmine Harper-Davis is a 2014-2015 Tutor Corps member at Great Oaks Charter Middle School in Newark, New Jersey. She is a recent spring 2014 DePauw University graduate in Greencastle, Indiana, with a Bachelors of Arts degree in Communication & Theatre. Upon completion of her service year at Great Oaks, she plans to enroll in a graduate school and get her Masters for Educational Theatre-Applied Theatre, in hopes to open her own inner-city community theatres to help promote the arts and provide another creative outlet. A firm believer that the arts can make an impact, Jazmine has dedicated her life to ensuring that young people understand the effect the arts can have on an entire community and their own self worth.