Toni's Class

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Jun 25 2011

Atlanta Institute–The First Three Weeks

I don’t even know where to start.  I was going to write about the insane Institute schedule, but I think I will pass.  Just note that everything you have heard about Institute is absolutely true.  Mornings start at 4 am and end at 10 pm.  Six hours of sleep is best-case scenario.  And your brain will ache from the copious amounts of knowledge you are cramming into it on a daily basis.  We have recently finished our third week of Institute—only two weeks left!

Institute is Teach for America’s intensive summer training program, during which corps members are trained for the rigors of teaching.  It consists of training sessions, as well as actual teaching experience.

The training has been absolutely incredible.  There is so much information that I hope I can retain even a small portion of it !  We have at least three training sessions each day, sometimes more.  Training topics include investment, classroom management, lesson planning, literacy, diversity, and much more.  Instructors are previous corps members and often, specialists in their fields.

We have also been teaching summer school.  I am teaching reading to a class of sixteen seventh-graders, who are hoping to progress to the eighth grade this fall.  I teach with a collaborative partner (my “collab”).  The school day runs from 8:30 am until 1:15 pm.  We teach reading for approximately half of the school day, and the students learn math from other corps members for the remainder of the school day.  Corps members attend training sessions for the rest of the day.

We have an incredible class of students!  Teaching them has been such an honor.  Each week has had its challenges in the classroom.  I would say my greatest challenge during the first week was classroom management.  But fortunately, after the first week, I feel like we established a great, well-behaved classroom environment and have not struggled with behavior since.

I think the greatest challenge the second week was maintaining student engagement.  Now that students were compliant with the classroom management protocol, we wanted to focus on getting them invested and engaged in the class (aka, keeping their heads off of their desks).  We focused on ways to allow the students to take ownership of their learning and ways to make learning more engaging.  One of the most successful strategies we implemented was to divide the class into teams who compete against each other for recognition and small rewards.  It’s amazing how hard competitive students will work to win a snack pack of Cheetos!  We let each team pick a college team name—our class has the Georgia Bulldogs, the Duke Blue Devils, and the Texas Longhorns.  The teams are neck-in-neck right now.  I continue to be impressed with how well the students work together as teams and how well they seem to learn from each other.

I think the greatest challenge going forward will be trying to squeeze the most learning into the short amount of time we have with students each day.  The students will be taking the CRCT during the second week of July, so we have a short time to cover the objectives that we believe will help them not only be successful on their test, but also become better readers in general.  The sense of urgency is definitely increasing rapidly!

One of the highlights of teaching so far has been finding this doodle on a student’s desk after class:

I have to get back to lesson planning now.  We are in the final stretch.  I had hoped to update this blog more frequently, but it does not appear feasible during Institute.  But I will certainly make sure to log on and post highlights from time to time.  I hope to spend more time here after Institute!

2 Responses

  1. Bruce

    Hook ‘Em Horns!

  2. Bryan Raybon

    Sounds like you are having a very meaningful experience already and getting great feedback! Those doodle discoveries are your “bonus” for doing this kind of work, relish each one of them!

Post a comment

About this Blog

Thoughts and Experiences of a Recovering Attorney

Metro Atlanta
Middle School
Social Studies

Subscribe to this blog (feed)