Sunday, July 03, 2005

Institue: One Week Down

The last two weeks have been so crazy that I haven't even had a chance to check my email, let alone blog. The first week in New York was busy with our meetings starting every day at 9 am and running until about 6pm. Then dinners and social scheduled through the evening. That was nothing compared to the first week at Institue though. We get up at 5am every day to catch the bus at 7. All day long we have sessions trying to get us ready for teaching next week. At 430 we head back to the dorms only to eat and get ready for more sessions, group work, and lesson planning well into the night. A lot of people have been staying up until 2am or even pulling all nighters, but I made a pact with myself to not stress and to get things done as early as possible so that I can get a decent amount of sleep. So far it's working and I've only stayed up until midnight once. But that was just the first week. Next weeks the kids come. I've heard from some advisors that this is the easy week and next week is when it really gets hard. I've also heard, on the more optimistic side, that next week is when it starts getting fun since we'll be teaching. It'll definitely be nice to have a chunk of the day (9am-1:15pm) where we won't be sitting in our sessions. My gut feeling is that next week will be pretty stressfully with the first week of teaching and getting over the anxiety of standing up in front of the class while being observed, but then the third and fourth weeks of teaching will start to get easier. All in all, I think last week has been very long and draining but not the most stressful week of my life like I've heard others say.

There are 750 of us here at the Institue in Philadelphia. We're all from NY, Philadelphia and New Jersey. During the day, they bus us to different schools throughout Philadelphia where we teach summer school to kids who didn't meet the requirements to pass on to the next grade level. Even though it sometimes seems like we're just going to be "pretend teaching," it's the real thing and these kids actually do need us. I think that next week when the kids get here it will start to seem more real. The elementary school that I'm teaching at in Philadelphia is completely comprised of ESL students and all of us teachers are teaching ESL in the fall so it is nice that we have that community. (Some people are teaching high school English in the fall but teaching math here in Philly.) So, for the next four weeks I am teaching 6th grade. There are four of us teaching each class and we rotate between teaching math, reading, and writing. My first week I'll be teaching writing.

I titled one of my first posts ESL, what is it exactly? Well, as it turns out, that was the million dollar question. I kept thinking that once we got to Induction or Institue the information would start flowing. Not so. Basically what it comes down to is that this is the first year that TFA New York is placing ESL teachers so they don't have a lot of experience with it. ESL is also kind of controversial subject and no one can agree on what is the right or most effective method. I've been really excited to teach ESL (and still am) so I think that I am more able to be flexible and go with the flow, but I've found that a lot of people didn't want to teach ESL and so the lack of information is really frustrating them. Also, there are so many models of ESL that it's hard to imagine what teaching in the fall will be like. Will I have my own self-contained classroom? Will I teach a push-in/pull-out model? Will I teach five different classes of ESL each day? I guess I am lucky in that I got placed during Induction so I know just what I'm going to be doing. I am teaching at a K-8 school where I will be teaching a pull-out/push in model. It's definitely not what I had imagined when I joined TFA but I'm getting really excited about it. I found out that I am going to be the only ESL teacher at my school so I'm really going to have to become the expert. While that's a little stressful, I'm excited to learn all about ESL and come up with some programs to not only help my kids but to give support to their general education teachers. This week we start our "learning teams" which means we will meet in groups with other corps members who are assigned to teach the same thing in the fall, so I'm hoping that I'll start to get a better idea of what to expect. In the meantime, I've started some research on the internet.

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