Saturday, June 26, 2010

Hello my darling, darling friends and fammmmm.

So it's my last full day of Induction here in Baltimore, tomorrow we head to Philadelphia to start our INTENSE training called Institute. I'm still missing you all very much.

This week has been truly amazing. We, as a corps, have had a ton of activities starting to prepare us for what we are getting into. We've had sessions about what TFA is all about, what our roles as teachers are, what will be our biggest challenges, safety, and diversity and understanding. The quality of these sessions have ranged from alright to really thought provoking and wonderful. I really liked our session on diversity. It's really interesting to see how racial differences ARE acknowledged and valued here. It took a LOT of talking and explaining for many of the people here (no matter what their race was) to fully get that having a lot of minorities in the corps is important but not the most valuable thing. And that it really is important to have role models from ALL backgrounds for these kids.

We had a safety session after the diversity one, however, that was much less satisfying. They had us write down questions about safety in a previous exercise and then had a panel to "address" our questions. But basically, they gave vague and similar answers for every concern. I would have liked much more if they'd broken down the crimes that occur in Baltimore, or perhaps the activity of gangs, or rifts between neighborhoods. If we're to be effective we have to not be ignorant to what these kids are going through. We need to understand what the realities are of this city so even if the kids themselves haven't gone through them, we see what the community experiences. I thought the session did a VERY poor job of addressing those issues because they didn't want to scare us. I was pretty disappointed, which was the first time I felt that way this week. Besides that, I've really enjoyed the conversations and information they've been giving us.

On a much better note, a couple evenings ago we went to my school. We had attended a community panel right before at a museum on the inner harbor. The panel consisted of a woman who is a professor of law here in Baltimore, a boy about to enter 12th grade, a man who is a TFA Bmore alum and now works in business in the city, and a pastor at a church in the city. They all had a lot to tell us about the city and our role in it. It was really empowering. Plus we got to eat a LOT of Mexican food which was WONDERFUL and DELICIOUS. Jayess. Then we walked just down the block to my school for a cupcake and wine social with TFA alum who have stayed in the city. My school was so beautiful, I really almost cried.

I met the principal and the man who is going to be my team teacher. Another corps member from 2010 is going to be working in the school too. His name is Brian. We all gathered together and talked a bit about next year. I'm so excited.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

It Begins!

I made it! I made it to Baltimore yesterday morning after waking up early and having my dad drive me to the airport. When I got there I had pretty easy travels on a nearly full plane. It was all pretty surreal, I overheard people talking about "home" while referring to Baltimore. I still really didn't feel like I was leaving Michigan.

Then as we landed, two old women who were sitting in my row were talking to the girl at the other end of the row and I realized that she was coming from Michigan to do TFA as well. I interjected, telling her that I was joining the '10 Corps as well. It turns out she's from Kalamazoo and she went to U of M! Her name is Lindsay. We immediately got off the plane and got our luggage, then met up with the other people from TFA at our meeting point. People were coming from all over! New Hampshire, Florida, California! It's so exciting to get to know people from these different areas who excited and energetic to be here. It makes being away from home easier, in a way. And it makes me feel all the more enthusiastic about being here.

My group then got picked up by Alex, my contact in Baltimore. I finally got to meet him, which was nice and he gave us a mini-tour of the city. We saw Federal Hill, Mt. Vernon and Charles Village. There were 3 other girls in my shuttle. One seemed like a big grump (oh well), but the others were really great. One, Elyse, I especially got a very positive vibe from. She's really into studying other cultures and traveling. She was telling me that she's fascinated with Indian culture and has started learning more recently about Buddhism and Yoga (in which she's attempting to get certified later this year). She also said she'd had a few girls extend offers to live with her over facebook already, but that she was hesitant to say yes before meeting them. I felt the same way during the weeks before coming here, so we talked about that for a while.

Then we got dropped off at check-in at Johns Hopkins. The campus is beautiful, but a big chunk of the day is just kind of a blur of trying to fill out paperwork and meet people, all while sweating a TON (it's SO hot and humid here, too). We went to a banquet hall for dinner and I met some more people. I met a woman named Chantress who seems really wonderful. She's a transfer from Charlotte and is married. Her husband will be going to medical school in D.C. next year. I also met a guy named Charlie who might be my Program Director next year. He seems a little awkward, but nice. He's also really engaged and it's evident that he cares about the program a lot.

When we got back we were all tiiiiiired. And we had to wake up today at 5:30 AM. So we went to bed pretty quickly. I did get to talk to my roommates a bit, though. Their names are Leslie and Emily. Then Lindsay (who is living across the hall from me) and her roommate Anneke came over to talk for a little bit. It was really nice to socialize and hear them voice concerns that I myself have had. This Corps is going to be a huge support network for me. I can tell.

Then I woke up today and got ready. Our dorm room is pretty hot and sweaty and I got gross quickly. Emily and I went downstairs to get breakfast and then we met up with some others and made our way over to Shaffer Hall where our sessions are being held.

I'm really fortunate because I've already been placed in a school. Being a math teacher, I'm one of only a few. Most people here are going to be Secondary English or Elementary teachers. On top of already being hired, my principal was on top of things enough that he emailed me a form to sign confirming my hire. Because he did that and I signed it, I didn't have to go to the hiring fair today and I got a 3 hour break! That's so wonderful, considering the days are scheduled for about 15 hours straight.

Needless to day, there were a lot of sessions with A LOT of information this morning. It was really cool hearing from the staff and understanding their vision of the Teach For America program in this city. TFA Baltimore has existed for 18 years now and it shows. Each staff member seems to really enjoy his or her job and to be excited just to be here as a resource for us. I can tell the network here is strong, which is why I chose Baltimore so I'm very pleased.

During one of our breaks Elyse found me. We took a trip to the bathroom and were just talking. In our conversation, housing came up. I asked if she'd met the girls who had asked her about living together and she told me that honestly I was really the only person she'd felt a good vibe or spark with. I told her that I'd love to live with her and she was really happy. We both want to live in a row home with 3 or 4 people and are looking at the same neighborhoods. So it sounds like I have a pretty wonderful roommate already! I'm really excited about it.

I've gotta get going to join up with the group for the rest of the day. Thanks for reading! I miss you all a lot.