6:00am – First alarm goes off. Of course, I snooze it.
6:15am – Second alarm goes off. I may or may not snooze this one as well.
6:30am – I finally drag myself out of bed (if it’s one of those mornings, I might still be found in the same spot until as late as 6:45am).
7:00am – My clothes are already picked out and my lunch already packed, so the process of getting ready is as expeditious as is within my control.
7:15am – If I’m not heading out the door by this point, it’s almost a guarantee that I’ll be late. Book bag and lunchbox in hand, I hurriedly pick a playlist for my walking commute to work.
7:30am – I get to the community education building and rush to catch an elevator up to the 8th floor. Once on the 8th floor, I sign in and sign out a spot to take some of my students to the library when it comes time for that tutorial period.
7:35am – I set my stuff down and make myself a cup of tea to enjoy with breakfast. I take my breakfast and lunch down to the teachers’ lounge where I can get away from the bustle of the morning and quietly start my day.
8:50am – Prep period (aka free time)
9:45am – 2nd period. This is my first tutorial of the day. I have a one-on-one with a sassy little 7th grader who has made a habit of trying every trick in the book to get out of class. She can be a tough one at times but when she’s ready and willing to work, she starts talking a mile a minute. ELA is definitely her strong suit so I do everything I can to make sure she stays challenged. Despite her occasional attitude and significant academic lag, I know she can become that English teacher she dreams of one day becoming.
10:40am – Prep period
11:35am – 4th period. I have another one-on-one with a reserved (but talkative once she warms up) 7th grader. She is hands-down my easiest tutorial. Although she is slightly behind grade level, she is bright and her behavior doesn’t require her to be constantly monitored. It’s a breeze if I ever saw one.
12:30pm – LUNCH TIME!!! 🙌🏾 The struggle to beat the crowd and get down to the teachers’ lounge so I can heat up my lunch is real. Even with 3 microwaves.
1:05pm – Just like that, lunch is over. 😢😭
1:25pm – 5th period. I have the same girl I had earlier in the day for 2nd period only this time, I see her for math. Math is a little *different*. Since she struggles especially with this subject, there is a lot more stalling and acting out. Most times I don’t really get through any part of my lesson with her because she finds a reason to walk away and roam the halls. But on the days that I do, I gratefully take whatever I can get from her.
2:10pm – 6th period used to be the time of the day when I went into a 6th grade science class as an extra TA dedicated to the students who need special accommodations. Over time however, special education tutors got re-assigned and this period has now become yet another prep period. I have absolutely no complaints though.
3:05pm – 7th period. My last tutorial of the day. 😩 This one is a group of 3 6th grade boys whose unique personalities each bring an interesting flavor to tutorial. As it is the end of the day, they are understandably antsy so I have to get creative in order to hold their attention. Sometimes that looks like multiplication push-up drills, other times it simply entails bribery with food. 😅 This group can be difficult in a different way than my sassy one-on-one. Staying on task, refraining from engaging in side chatter, and just keeping them from disrupting other tutorials going on around us are a few challenges that arise on a daily basis. But no matter how much they bicker and lose focus, I usually get through at least half of what I planned for them.
3:55-4:30pm – Dismissal. As soon as 7th period ends (usually with a reminder from one of my boys that it’s time to go), I head to my dismissal duty post in the stairwell. This is where I exhale and take a few minutes by myself to shake off the stress of the day. But the rumble of students coming down the stairs jolts me out of the peaceful head space that I’m in. As the mob of students makes its way down to the buses, I say “bye” to whoever looks up to greet me.
5pm – Barring any after-school activities, I gather my belongings and walk home, where I try as much as possible not to do or think about anything work-related for the rest of the day.
This is pretty much what most of my life consists of as a special education middle school tutor. Instead of going straight into graduate school, I chose to take a gap year so that I could ascertain what my real interests are. My desire to make an impact in young students’ lives through teaching, step away from the research lab in order to enter a more hands-on position, and simply become more well-rounded in the field of education are all factors that drew me to the Great Oaks Charter School Tutor Corps position. It is a program under AmeriCorps in which recent college graduates complete a 1700-hour year of service in an underserved neighborhood.
As this is my first year in education, I cannot truthfully say that I was prepared for what has been placed in my hands. However, the experience has been nothing short of an opportunity for growth. I have had to step out of my comfort zone and assume the role of an authority figure. I have been stretched through working with sixth and seventh graders who are on kindergarten reading levels. Flexibility and adaptability have become skills that I strive to achieve on a daily basis. It is tough work and by no means for the faint of heart. Despite the difficult days, the relationships that I have formed and the “aha” moment when a concept finally clicks with a child are satisfying reminders of why I serve.
Working in education has opened my eyes to the injustices of the system and shown me what area I would like to make a difference in. Living in Wilmington, Delaware (formerly dubbed “Murder Town USA”) has challenged me to see beyond the violence and poverty that exists on the surface, to seek a deeper, more human understanding of my environment. This place is home to so many good people. There is potential here, all around me. Every so often, I get glimpses of it when I walk by a tutorial full of young black men studiously reciting the definition of mercantilism. Or when I see kids confidently being themselves and letting their creativity shine through. Because of the potential that lies within each and every student, I refuse to give up. Change certainly doesn’t happen overnight, but it is my hope that by spending a year serving these kids, I am able to help instill in them a love for learning and a determination to see their dreams become a reality.