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

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