Saturday, January 9, 2010

Closing into a new beginning

Add ImageTired and Groggy, we started our morning at 530 am. After checking out the 6 of us got into our stylish, sleek green minivan and made our way to J.H. Gunn elementary. It was the only day all of us were working together in one classroom. Mr. Khosravi welcomed us with guidelines for the day as we arrived and we were prepped on our responsibilities while we were waiting eagerly for our class of second graders.

The day had an interesting dynamic, as the particular class to which we were assigned was an all boys classroom. We divided ourselves to work with groups of students at very different learning levels in math, reading, writing and science. It was also the day where we were working with students over the largest range of subject matter. 

We began the day with morning assignments and working together with decomposing numbers. The boys worked with building blocks, conversion, the number line and number equations. I liked the way Mr. Khosravi provided a variety of tools for his students to express their thoughts. Soon after math, we continued on to reading and science where we helped the students learn new words and concepts. Later, we broke up into small focused groups as we worked with students tackling problem areas in math. After all the hard work we headed out for lunch with the students where we were entertained with funny stories and jokes. We spoke to the students about their favorite classes and their future plans. We finished the day with a small comprehension assignment and reading.

Throughout the day I noticed that in all the classes the teacher tried to focus more on the analytical skills of the students rather than the answer of the problem. It was a unique style of teaching and definitely an important skill. The students were encouraged to think of different ways to come to a solution, connect their personal experiences to their readings and interpret what was being in the text. Mr. Khosravi knew the strengths and weaknesses of each of his students and had formulated different ways to tackle them. Jose had trouble reading so his classmates tested him on different words while they lined up to go for lunch or recess. Elisjah had trouble understanding abstract concepts so he was taught with blocks so he could see visually see the changes when he manipulated numbers. It was a remarkable way to deal with specific problem areas!

After the long day finally ended we went back to the van and started our long journey home. Once again we had to deal with the wrath of the impossible highways and had to detour, which added 2 hours to our journey. Tired angry and frustrated we continued driving until we found our savior in the form of “Bojangles” where we stopped to drown our sorrows in food. J. After our big meal we reflected on the week and our different experiences. The highlights, the things we didn’t agree with, the funny stories and best moments. We all connected with the children we worked with in a rare and extraordinary which left lasting impressions on each one of us.  I fell asleep thinking of all the unexpected things I discovered. It was the perfect ending to an amazing week. J.

Chandni Chopra

Sophomore, Marketing Major


Thursday, January 7, 2010

Elementary Experiences - On the Road to College

Today our group began the day by splitting up into separate groups and traveling to two different elementary schools. Both groups were able to be a part of a classroom that was lead by Teach for America participants. The group I was in traveled to Montclaire Elementary to experience the very exciting and positive learning environment of a Kindergarten classroom. The other group traveled to Albemarle Road Elementary to discover what a 4th grade learning curriculum involves. Both groups had extremely positive experiences all throughout the day and observed the hard work that must be put forth by those in Teach for America in order to successfully teach their students.

While in the kindergarten classroom, our group was able to get to know the 5 and 6 year old students very quickly. Even at 7:30 in the morning they are highly energetic and they were all so excited to have the three of us in their classroom. At the beginning of the morning we worked with small groups of the students during their reading workshop and we all saw the impressive level of reading that the young students had already reached, and it is only the middle of the school year. We were then able to create gingerbread houses with the students which was a wonderfully entertaining experience. The creativity used by the students to create their houses was excellent. It was great to see how eager they all were to learn. Throughout the day we continued to interact with the students during their writing and math workshops. The goal of Teach for America participants is to better education and make a difference in their students' lives. Ms. Buchanan did just that. She had created such a great learning environment for her kindergarten students that it was easy to see that even at the ages of 5 and 6, her students were on the path to becoming collegiate students. Each table of students had the name of a different college throughout the U.S. and the hard work the students willingly put forth showed great promise of college in their future. The entire day gave us all a great dose of what it takes to educate these young minds. I believe that we can all agree on the fact that we took our teachers in elementary-high school for granted and did not realize how much time and dedication our great teachers put forth in order to educate us.

By volunteering at each level (high school, middle school, and now an elementary school) thus far, our group has gained a lot of insight on the effort given everyday by those in Teach for America and we are witnesses of how successful the program is. These past three days have been interesting in that we were all put in situations that were unfamiliar to most of us previously but that we have all immensely enjoyed and learned from. One of the most valuable lessons learned is that as adults, we learn from children every single day and they are able to use their imaginations and positive attitudes to give us new perspectives on certain situations. These students are encouraged to shoot for their highest goals and taught that college is a place of great opportunity, beginning at the age of 5. We have all been able to see this week that the future collegiates will enter the world that we are in now due to the knowledge and encouragement gained from their earliest school days. This gives us confirmation that the future will be bright.

After the school day was over, Ms. Miller generously took us to the Teach for America office where all of the TFA participants in the Charlotte region report to. It was great to meet even more TFA teachers and a few of the coordinators and directors. After we returned from volunteering, we all participated in our daily lounge sessions and headed out to dinner around 7:30. We traveled about 20 minutes North of Charlotte and enjoyed a wonderful meal at Carrabba's Italian Grill. Dinner was complete with a highly intense discussion about our childhood entertainment and we all took a great stroll down memory lane. Movies were quoted, games were described, and many MANY laughs were had. Tomorrow we head to another elementary school at 5:45 AM and will be heading home after school ends at 1:30 PM to greet the blizzard that is occurring in Indiana.

Maria Miller
Junior, Elementary Education Major

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

A New Approach: KIPP

Today our group woke up early to go experience a new approach to teaching students from urban communities. We traveled to the local KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program) school here in Charlotte to see how this school differed from the more traditional urban schools. KIPP's purpose is to help as many underrepresented and underprivileged make their dreams of college a reality. All aspects of the school revolves around helping the students get to college and succeeding while they are there. Students in the KIPP school program are expected to hold themselves to the highest possible standards. Good class behavior and Academic success are the two goals all KIPP students aim to achieve. The only way to truly understand a KIPP school is to see a school hands on, but since most of the readers of this blog will never be exposed to a KIPP school I hope this Video can give you a better understanding of the KIPP school system and how it is helping children get into college.

When our group arrieved at kip we really did not know what to expect but we quickly learned what KIPP was all about. The students started the day by chanting their schools mission statement for us. The amount of school participation was amazing and it was easy to see that the students had really understood that their school life was important.

Our main group was quickly broken up into pair and assigned tasks to help the teachers with. Most of our jobs were simple but timely tasks such as filling papers, grading tests, printing, copying, making posters and so on, but by doing the jobs, we helped the teachers use their time in more efficient and beneficial ways.

For me, the best part of the day was lunch. Not because I had a bag of Doritos chips waiting for me to eat, but because this was the first time we where able to talk to the KIPP kids and hear their views of the school. My experience with the students was positive. I was able to meet students who cared about learning and most of all where proud of their accomplishments in school.

Albert and Claire with KIPP students

At night we went to down town Charlotte to see a spot that Maria's friend told us about, it was really kewl I think we all enjoyed it. We ate at a Wings place and then stayed around to play comedy game. It was my birthday too so I really appreciated everyone making my birthday special, Thanks.

Picture in Downtown Charlotte

Juan Pagan
Freshman, Marketing Major

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Going Back to High School

Today was our first day of volunteering with Teach For America (TFA) teachers. We went to Phillip O. Berry, a magnet program high school. Four of us, Chandni, Albert, Juan, and I, worked with Algebra I teachers. These freshman and sophomore students were preparing for their EOC exams and primarily reviewing. We answered individual questions about the review problems as the students worked through them. The other two, Maria and Claire, observed and assisted both English 9 and English 10 classes.

All six of us had a positive, and sometimes hilarious, experience in the Phillip O. Berry classrooms. We learned from the students and teachers about a school system that differed from the ones we attended as children. We were able to experience the frustration of a student who is still struggling with much of the material come finals time and the same frustration of teachers who grasp the reality that some students will not pass their classes this semester. We also enjoyed some funny interactions with students. At lunch we were laughed as we learned that a seventeen-year-old confided to Ms. DeTrizio that he liked Chandni, and upon hearing that she was only two years older than him and liked intelligent men, worked diligently all period to impress her! Albert and Juan also had their share of high school admirers.

Although we laughed and enjoyed the day, we all agreed that our first "real" day of the AWB trip was overall eye-opening and inspiring. Claire and Maria shared that Ms. White read the students a story that involved a shooting scene. When she asked the class if they connected personally to the story, Claire and Maria were astounded that several hands shot up to nonchalantly share personal experiences. Most of us grew up in the suburbs of Indiana and have not had such experiences. Similarly, Chandni and Albert were shocked at how disrespectfully the students treated their teachers. Juan and I were impressed by how gracefully Ms. Brown earned the respect and attention of her students.

Albert helping students in Algebra I.

The six of us traded funny stories about each other in the classrooms and reflected on the day this evening. We shared our observations and connected them to personal experiences. We also discussed our opinion on teaching methods and the benefits and drawbacks of dividing students by performance level. Our experiences at Phillip O. Berry fueled a meaningful intellectual conversation in the hotel tonight.

In addition to experiencing a low-income school district, we had an opportunity today to hear the teachers' candid opinion about Teach For America. Since I personally aspire to join TFA, our conversations with current Corps members about the TFA program and teaching in general were invaluable to me! Ms. Brown shared her experiences and the lessons she has learned in teaching in the past year and a half.

A huge thank you to Ms. Brown, Ms. DeTrizio, and Ms. White for hosting us today! We all had a fantastic time in your classrooms! (Tomorrow we are off to experience the KIPP school, which Juan will report to you.)

Julie Bowman
Greater and Awesomer ;)
Junior, Finance and International Business Major

Monday, January 4, 2010

Exploring Charlotte

Today was our free day and we took the opportunity to prepare for our coming week, wander around downtown, and visit Concord Mills mall. It was a beautiful, sunny, albeit chilly day. We left the Holiday Inn at 10am and drove to Lion market for this week’s lunches and snacks. We bought materials for sandwiches and a variety of treats. Since we didn’t have refrigerators in our rooms, we tended to avoid perishable foods. That is, with the exception of my turkey and provolone cheese. But that was more or less because I neglected to acknowledge the whole refrigerator thing since it gets below freezing at night. Hopefully it’ll turn out well, something to look forward to in the morning – but I digress. Afterwards, we took the scenic route to Charlotte’s main street. Our first stop was a quaint coffee shop on the corner of West Martin Luther King Blvd and Tryson Rd which happened to be an annex to the visitor center. After receiving advice from the customer service desk we all agreed to meander until we were either exhausted or frozen. We ended up taking a bunch of pictures near neat pieces of art. Displayed below are all six of us under the L’oisau De Feu Sur L’arche. With my master observation skills and juvenile education of French I’ve taken the initiative to translate that: the bird of fire on the arch.

From left to right: Albert Lu, Julie Bowman, Claire Hoffman, Maria Miller, and Juan Pagan.

At noon, we dropped by Merts to have lunch. It was highly recommended by the woman at the visitor center and rightfully so. Merts is a small restaurant akin to potbellies, but they served southern styled hot meals. Then at 1pm, we drove to the highly anticipated Concord Mills mall. We stayed as a group and shopped together for awhile and later on watched avatar. The movie was expected to be unbelievable and it did not disappoint. The story made sense, the visuals were astounding, and the only beef I had with it was the dialog at some points. But overall, we all enjoyed it and had a small discussion about it over dinner in the mall. We got back to the Holiday Inn around 8pm and finished the night together by making sandwiches and discussing this week’s activities. This is the first and last post you’ll hear from me, so I hope you’ve enjoyed my summary of Monday, January 04, 2010. Tomorrow’s blog will be piloted by Julie, treat her well!

Albert Lu
Great and Awesome, Finance & Operations Management major

Sunday, January 3, 2010

A Brief Introduction: Charlotte, Teach for America, and the Always Eventful Road Trip

Did you know that only one in ten students who grow up in low-income communities will graduate from college? Teach for America (TFA) strives to end the educational inequity that occurs in low income areas of the US by enlisting promising college graduates to participate in their program. These graduates commit to teaching for two years in low-income rural and urban communities throughout the United States. Over the years, TFA has recruited over 24,000 teachers and impacted the lives of over 3 million students through its efforts. I encourage you to visit to find out what TFA is all about.

Over the next several days, we'll be visiting classrooms throughout Charlotte ranging from kindergarten to high school. Our primary goal is to help the TFA teachers in their classrooms wherever our help is most needed. Because of the wide range of grades we'll be visiting, we plan on having very different experiences each day. Some of our tasks will include tutoring students, teaching lessons, holding college Q&A sessions, and even making gingerbread houses, but I'll let my other AWB teammates tell you more about that. On each of the next 5 days, you'll have the opportunity to hear from a different participant on our trip. We hope this will give you a wide range of perspectives of our time in Charlotte as well as a better understanding of the social issue we're working with and the impact we and the TFA teachers are making in the lives of area students.

Now, a brief overview of our road trip to Charlotte. Overall, the trip went very smoothly. We were on the road by 9 am this morning, riding to Charlotte in style in a light green minivan. As you can see from the picture above, everyone made sure to get plenty of rest (we'll be having 5:30 am wake-up calls throughout the week!). We decided to take an alternate route to Charlotte only to find out the highway into North Carolina was closed due to a rockslide. We followed the trusty GPS, and sure enough, half an hour later, we ended up at the same dead end we had encountered earlier. Needless to say, we went a bit out of our way, but what's another 2 hours on the road with the best AWB group members a person could ask for? Participants used the extra time wisely by playing a few rounds of Apples to Apples, selecting theme songs for the trip, and, of course, catching up on more sleep. We arrived at our destination around 8:30 pm, grabbed a quick dinner, and are resting up for our first adventure in Charlotte tomorrow. We have a free day to explore the city before volunteering Tuesday through Friday. Tomorrow, you'll hear from Albert about our first day in Charlotte!

Junior, Marketing Major