So what do you do exactly?

Yeah so what do I do, exactly?

Great question. I’ve told you each something about what I do but it can be a bit confusing (even for the people I work for, merp) so I thought I’d try to explain it to you. Here goes:

I’m technically an AmeriCoprs Teaching Fellow who works for *** [is this blog google-able?], a national non-profit that provides extended learning opportunities to middle school students in low-income areas. I’ve been placed at a school in one of Boston’s low-income neighborhoods which is where I report for work nearly every day. I work with 8th graders, which means that I teach them during the extended learning time (what most people think of as after-school from 2:20-5, four days a week). At some schools, the program the nonprofit runs is optional —  the only kids who go are kids whose families force them to go. Not so at our school. We get everyone. Which is a much better way of accomplishing the goals of the program which, from what I can tell so far, include keeping kids safe and off the streets/out of empty homes/out of dangerous homes, giving them more time “on task” with content, providing opportunities to do things they wouldn’t otherwise be able to do (think college trips and classes on computer coding) and giving access to a larger number of adults (teaching fellows and volunteer teachers who teach the cool classes like coding) who can be role models/caregivers/people who know their names. Part of my role is to support the nonprofit, which I do by working with a team of 8th grade team leaders from across the city, hosting funders who visit the school (one stopped by today!), and generally doing what the people in charge ask of me.

How do we accomplish those goals? Well for the first 50 minutes I’m with them we have mandatory homework block, which is an enforced study hall in which I check their planners (because middle school is a key moment to learn organizational skills), answer their questions about their homework (they’re working on linear equations right now! y=mx+b for the win!), and generally try to make them be quiet. Then we give them snack. Then, depending on the day of the week I teach them about the high school process (applying in Boston is incredibly complicated with public schools assigned by algorithm not neighborhood, a slew of charter schools, public pilot schools (aka magnet schools) and even Catholic and independent schools), teach them a quasi-current events class, take them to a university for one-on-one writing coaching, and work with adults to offer the cool classes (like coding).

IMG_0636

{The room I teach in, decorated by Ms. H, my partner teacher.}

But I only teach for two and a half hours a day. So what do I do with the rest of my time? Well, because I work with the eighth graders my role is to support all things eighth grade. Primarily this means working with the guidance counselor to coordinate high school placement. With 85 students to place in one of about 50 schools, this is no small job and there is no way that one woman would be able to do it by herself. Especially since she’s the counselor for all 5th-8th graders: her days are frenetic (the day before winter break involved calming crying teenage girls, writing letters of recommendation, and calling child protective services all before lunch). So I do what I can to make her job easier by filing and making copies, chasing down application essays, calling families for financial aid documentation, translating for Spanish-speaking families during family conferences, and planning time for students to get it all done. I work with her guidance interns on high school applications and by discussing my in-class observations of students they give therapy to. I also support an 8th grade math teacher whose classroom I teach in during the afternoons (see photo above). Together we make family phone calls (she took Chinese and Greek in college; enough said) and we just started tutoring four kids in math who speak the least amount of English. I also coordinate with CityYear members who do pullout sessions for my English language learners. I support bimonthly college trips that all 8th graders enrolled in our program across the city attend. I translate all the permission slips and pamphlets that our program sends home. I call about 37 families (my main team plus families with only Spanish-speaking adults).

I also laugh with the other Teaching Fellows (we have a quote wall and it is epic; my current favorite, “Is Rhode Island in Florida?” “No.” “See, I told you it was in Massachusetts.”). I go to lunch with the students often so that I can say hi. And, last but not least, I walk to the bus station with my students at least twice a week.

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