This morning I’m full of joy and anticipation as I look to the school year in just two weeks. These past two weeks have been quite enjoyable and imperative to feeling settled for the school year. I’ve moved into my apartment, organized my things, stocked the pantry shelves, and added some furniture (with help from some wonderful visitors!) I’ve also found, on foot and by car, the nearby restaurants, stores, libraries, etc.
Over the last week, I’ve forgiven–and even celebrated–myself for the seemingly inconsequential / unoriginal things I added to the bottom of my placement survey (letting TFA know our basic preferences for placement) in a space for “other comments.” There I wrote about my desire to lead group work and hands-on activities: things about which I’m passionate but wasn’t sure were entirely relevant to my school assignment or within TFA’s control.
Now that I’ve attended four of seven days of Project GRAD training (Graduation Really Achieves Dreams is a K-12 program operating in about half of Atlanta public schools) I realize that the program lines up extremely well with the aspirations I shared in that nebulous “other comments” category, and even some I did not share but firmly believe. In Project GRAD math, we’re to lead ten daily minutes of problem solving, facilitate high-functioning cooperative groups, and allow students to discover math concepts concretely before making them abstract (through use of manipulatives, especially). I have district support for those ways I already envisioned teaching!
And how did I end up at this Project GRAD school? In June I interviewed with five schools, as assigned by Teach for America. Four of these were the four Project GRAD schools seeking math teachers (the fifth was a neat, mixed-income school). In total eight schools were seeking middle school math teachers. Because I’m math-minded (and nerdy at that), I’ve attempted to run the math. Given eight schools, five schools can be chosen in 56 ways. Of those 56 ways, only four ways, or about seven percent of the total, would include all four Project GRAD schools. Someone was looking out for me!
I’ll be teaching either all boys or all girls, from what I can tell…no specific within school assignment just yet. I’d be happy with any assignment and am glad to be part of a school that is trying single-sex grouping–to my knowledge, something still relatively new in the public school system–to raise student achievement. A trainer this past week said that the switch to single-sex classes and floors several years ago really transformed the school culture (so when things get a little crazy, as they might in any middle school, I’ll remind myself that it could be even more eventful)
On Thursday I drove past my school building for the first time; road construction in the neighborhood allowed me to really see the surrounding community. There is no hiding that this is a school serving children of low-income families; externally, the school–as well as surrounding homes, businesses, and industrial buildings–bear some tell-tale marks of economic struggle. This phenomenon would not surprise me but for the two other APS schools in which I’ve spent time. Ostensibly set in quiet, well-kept residential communities, these two schools conceivably could serve families of any economic class. Yet, I am thrilled for my school placement and believe the physical reminders of poverty will motivate rather than deter me as I work and learn with my students. We must give them windows to the world and confidence in themselves that they may have a future of their choosing.
One day, all children will have the opportunity to attain an excellent education.