Wow! It has been a WHIRLWIND two weeks, so I’m sorry for keeping everyone out of the (rapidly spinning) loop. Since my last update I have:
1. Finished Institute. (Blog post coming about this soon, hopefully)
2. Missed my Institute students dreadfully! (As, evidently, did at least one of them, who emailed me to say “I miss you. The summer is not fun with you”… I assume he meant without me!)
3. Came home with laryngitis, bronchitis, and a sinus infection (from yelling and closing ceremonies, the Pepper Spray Incident, and General Bad Luck, respectively) and was subsequently coddled by everyone at home.
4. Saw my awesome grandmother for the first time in AGES!
5. Came to Detroit for First Eight Weeks (aka Round Zero), where I met my new boss (MTLD aka PD), my new cohort, and started learning the practical basics of planning for a whole year… And then started to plan for next year!
6. Moved into an awesome cohort member’s house for a week, in which time I learned to love dogs (really).
7. Moved into a place of my own in the northern suburbs of Detroit (more on why in another post, perhaps once I’m not keeping the Panera employees late to keep using the free wifi… My internet at the flat gets hooked up on Sunday).
8. Interviewed at TWO HIGH SCHOOLS TODAY! (For those of you going “HUH? But you’re in TFA! You don’t need a job!”: Although I got into TFA, I still need to be formally hired at a school site. TFA facilitates interviews and helps us deal with the requirements of formal certification, but I still need to go in with my resume and wow principals until one takes me instead of any other candidate (TFA or traditional teacher).)
Briefly, about the two high schools: Both are looking for a science teacher and already have TFA corps members on staff (this is an important “pro” for me). They are both Detroit Public Schools locations (not charter schools) and have struggled for many years academically and many of their students are well below grade level. Some key facts:
School #1: This is a struggling school, but they have recently changed hands and have about a million AMAZING new programs that they are hoping will turn around the school. However, they still have a long way to go – under 10% of their students passed the state science exam in the 11th grade last year. (The state average is 61%). I had a great interview, but unfortunately the principal had to step out for a prescheduled meeting, so I was only interviewed by an AP (assistant principal). I’m afraid having never met the principal will hurt my chances here, no matter how good the interview itself.
School #2: This school is working with the state to improve through programs like an extended school day/week/year (which means more PD time, but teachers are compensated for it). They are currently undergoing massive renovations, so my classroom and lab would have everything I could want (technology-wise and structurally). Having had no technology in my Institute room except a “borrowed” overhead projector, I realize having the ability to use PowerPoint and video is a HUGE plus. The school is in a heavily Latino neighborhood and is immensely loved by the community. Only about 20% of their students passed the 11th grade science test last year, but they also offer a rigorous Advanced Placement curriculum for students (and I would get to teach AP Biology!). The situation appears to go something like this: students enter high school and some of them are completely prepared for high school and ready to rock out in college but choose this neighborhood school over selective schools because they love it and have ties there. Many other students are recent immigrants and speak very little English and are overwhelmingly unprepared for the rigor of this high school. Most of the students speak Spanish as a first language, which I don’t at all – a fact that makes me very nervous. However, my interviewers (the principal, AP, and a union rep) didn’t seem concerned by the language issue and actually seemed to like me a lot.
I know I’d be happy at either school, but I can’t help hoping a little bit that I wind up at School #1. The opportunities to make a difference that come with a single digit passage rate are totally thrilling to me, the same way chills went down my spine when my college Writing Law professors told us that this was going to be the hardest class of our collegiate careers. There’s a level of challenge that I find exhilarating and 8% apparently is it when it comes to teaching. I have so much more motivation and drive already, but knowing I could be there. It may be crazy, but it reminds me for the first time in a while how I felt when I applied to TFA.