Two days of Institute done! It feels like I have been here forever already. Today was equally as amazing as yesterday. In the morning we listened to logistical information, but then we spent the rest of the day with our TLC (cohort) group. We really got to know each other by sharing our life maps– basically, we made “maps” that included pivotal points of our life, including key influencers, periods, and incidents. This honestly took a large portion of the day, but it was amazing to get to know everyone. Each one of us is so unique and has a different story, but we are all HERE for the same reason– we believe that one day, every child will have access to an excellent education. One moment that really stuck out to me was when one of my teammates was presenting and she got emotional because she realized that she was unaware of all of the racism that still exists in our society– she was sheltered from it where she grew up. She kept referring to herself as “stupid,” and I told her, “No, you’re not stupid. You would only be stupid if you heard all of this information in front of you now and continued to believe that racism is not real.” Later on, she asked another member of our group to elaborate on an experience she had (regarding something called “driving while black”– basically the idea that black people get pulled over for no reason on a frequent basis). Instead of reacting in a negative way, which could have been a total possibility, both people showed respect for each other, communicated, and learned. This modeled how we want conversations in our classrooms to be, and led us into our next segment where we figured out what we want as a group and how we are going to obtain it. This summer, our group wants: honest feedback, vulnerability, a GroupMe, respect, room to make mistakes, “I” statements, passion, friendship, laughter, collaboration, encouragement + support, active listening, trust, and authenticity. I am already seeing all of these traits playing a role in our TLC, and it has only been 48 hours.
Something else that really stuck out to me today was the truth/kindness spectrum. Basically, showing only truth or only kindness to someone is dangerous: truth is dangerous because there is a danger in not showing WHY you are telling the truth; kindness is dangerous because there is a danger is not challenging the person. Instead, we should strive for compassion: “I love you enough to tell you the truth in a way that makes us BOTH better.” This is something that I will have to work on in my personality and teaching, but I have already seen Jess and Tammie modeling it, which helps!
Something fun that we did today was make a cohort playlist. Our songs are:
1. Suit and Tie- Justin Timberlake
2. I Believe I Can Fly- R. Kelly
3. Wavin’ Flag- K’Naan
4. Strip Me- Natasha Bedingfield
5. Brave- Sara Bareilles
6. Liberation- OutKast
7. H.A.M.- Kanye West
8. Wake Up Everybody- John Legend
9. You’ve Got a Friend- Carol King
10. Stronger- Kelly Clarkston
11. Remember the Name- Fort Minor
12. Go the Distance- Hercules
13. A Change is Gonna Come- Sam Cook
There is a song missing… I don’t know what it is! Also, a lot of these songs are songs that I played on Bike and Build, so there’s yet another connection between the two. I know this playlist will get me through some difficult times this summer and in the upcoming two years.
Finally, to end the day, we did a challenging activity called the “Listening Tour” where we went to a shopping plaza in the Frayser area and basically walked up to Memphians, told them we are new teachers in the area, and asked them questions such as what it means to be a Memphian, what they think of the educational system, how do they imagine reform in the city, etc. This was challenging because talking to strangers is hard in any setting, but Jess reminded us that as teachers we must learn to talk to people, and we must be fearless. One comment that I heard repeatedly in my conversations was in regards to parent involvement. I asked all of these people how they think teachers can play a role in motivating parents, and I did not get too much direct feedback. However, I did have one particularly inspirational conversation with some family members. The two adults could have sincerely been teachers themselves– they were so motivating! Their children were also with them, so it was great to get a perspective from students in the communities we are teaching in. One of the girls in my cohort is actually going to be teaching at the student’s high school next year! Awesome! While this family certainly addressed the challenges of education in Memphis, they were very clear and positive in how we should combat them. Additionally, they LOVED Teach for America, which was refreshing since I have received a lot of disdain from people.
I ended the day by visiting my school for the fall for the first time! I will be teaching 7th or 8th grade English. I am so excited and already in love with these students I have yet to meet! While I am nervous about Jr. High, I have some great ideas– and I think this gives me a perfect excuse to incorporate my beloved young adult literature into the classroom!
WOO! Long day!