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Retrodiary

September 27, 2012

By Matt Durham, Corps Member Proudly Serving at Langston Hughes Academy

5:30 – I wake up every morning during the week at 5:30 and begin to mentally prepare myself for the day. Corn flakes for breakfast, and a pear.

5:45 – I begin the process of packing my bag. Do I have everything I need? My reading mastery textbook? All the parts of my uniform? My lunch? Check, check, and check.

6:00 – Go outside to check the weather and unlock my bike. Another beautiful day in New Orleans, looks like it will be a nice ride.

6:05  – Throw my City Year backpack on, slap my well-worn Celtics hat on my head, put my headphones in (today my ride’s accompaniment is Neil Young’s After the Gold Rush), and pedal out of my driveway.

6:06 – Head back inside my apartment. Forgot my name-tag on my desk.

6:07 – Power down my street and get back on schedule. My bike ride takes me down a bayou, and every morning I’m struck by the surrealism of what I get to see. As I ride I make mental notes to myself about what I need to do for that day, what scholars need that extra help.

 

6:30 – Arrive at school, and the sun is barely peaking over the horizon. I say hello to whichever dream keepers (teachers) are there, then head to a bathroom to change into my uniform before morning circle.

 6:50 – Morning circle with my team. We all look exhausted from a long work week, but ready to tackle the day head on.

7:00 – Circle with the lower school staff. City Year corps members get a lot of shout-outs from faculty, and I couldn’t be any more honored to serve with such incredible individuals.

7:15 – Off to my duty post. Handshakes and hugs to greet our scholars!

7:30 – Breakfast for fourth graders and I’m on bathroom duty. Not the most fun of jobs, but definitely necessary.

7:55 – Tutoring starts with scholars who struggled on the previous days’ exit ticket. I have a table in the corner of our math room for this, complete with a peace themed chair:

8:30 – Daily Reading Block (DRB) begins. For DRB I get three groups of scholars who rotate through my table. Today we’re reading a story about two sisters, Linda and Kathy. They are stuck on a boat that is at once on fire and being sucked by a whirlpool!

10:10 – Planning period. I take this time to prep the math room that I work in for the upcoming classes. I pull out folders for the first class (SeattlePacificUniversity), and their “Do Now” assignments, preparing their desks for a seamless transition.

 11:10 – Lunch time! My lunch usually consists of a sandwich, maybe a fruit or granola bar, and water. Nothing too extravagant, but it gets the job done. Lunch time is one of the few times during the day when I get to actually talk to my students. However brief it may be, I really enjoy getting to sit down with my scholars and listen to their stories.

11:30 – The gauntlet begins. I spend my next three hours in the math room, working on small group instruction. Every 20 minutes our class rotates centers, so I see a new set of scholars on a constant rotation. This week we’re going over addition and subtraction with regrouping. For an English major who went to an arts school (and who hasn’t taken a math class since high school), some of the material we’re going over is a review for me as well. I use a handheld white board to model problems for both high and low groups, mustering as much enthusiasm as I can (enthusiasm, after all, is a lower school value).

2:30 – Phew. Math is over. Now, back to my natural environment: Reading intervention groups. I have two groups for this, a half hour each. We play a game called teacher vs. scholar, where my students earn points by following directions and giving substantial answers. I get points if they are off task.

3:20 – Off to my afternoon duty post. Same spot as at the beginning of school, right near the library doors. I say goodbye to all the scholars making their way (read: attempting to wind sprint) out to their buses or cars.

3:40 – After school mentoring begins. Everyday I meet with a group of scholars after school in a less structured environment than regular class-time. We’re there to do homework, but another corps member and I also serve as mentors for this particular group. The eventual goal of the group is to get them in the habit of doing their homework every night without constant reminders. Slowly but surely I think we’re getting there. 

4:30 – Head out to the other after school program I help out with: cooking. We work in the cafeteria’s kitchen. A few of my fourth grade scholars are there, and a few from other grades as well. We cook a fresh pesto pasta with vegetables and wheat pasta. The kids aren’t as enthusiastic about the meal as I am, but I feel that cooking and nutrition are among the most important lessons we teach our scholars.

5:20 – Final circle with the team. We go over announcements, upcoming events, and any ripples or joys that may have occurred during the day. We throw our hands in a circle at the end and break the day with the customary shout of “5-0-4 dedication!” (The word rotates every day)

5:30 – After a long day it’s time to head home. I change back into some shorts, slap that Celtics hat back on, pop in my headphones and start my ride home. I’m mentally exhausted, but no matter how hard the day was I’m always left with a great sense of accomplishment. While each day is a challenge and at times a real struggle, knowing how much of a difference we will make, however little it may seem from day to day, makes this job worth it.

 

 

 

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