I’m a 2009 Teach For America Hawaii corps member in my second year of teaching at James Campbell High School in Ewa Beach. I teach 9th grade Special Education teacher and I co-teach a U.S. History class. I co-teach with a general education teacher in the inclusion model – one third of my students have learning or behavioral disabilities and the other two thirds are general education students. In addition to teaching, I’m involved in extracurricular activities at my school. I tutor for struggling readers and SAT prep after school two days a week. I’ve also been an assistant wrestling coach for the last two years. In short, my weeks tend to be very busy filled with multi-tasking and problem-solving.
My typical day entails getting up around 5:30am and driving to school. I try to arrive by 7am so that I have an hour to prepare for the day with my co-teacher. I usually finalize lesson plans and try to get ahead on some work before students come in. By 7:45am, I have a bunch of students in the room and my co-teacher and I are usually scrambling to make copies and prepare other materials for the lesson. I teach from 8:00am-9:20am, and then from 11:30am to 2:20pm, which includes three periods of U.S. History. We teach the same lesson all three periods. Our typical lesson involves some kind of warm-up activity to get the kids thinking about the main ideas for the day, then some note-taking for about 15minutes or so, and then some sort of activity that gets the kids engaging with the material. Throughout any given lesson, my co-teacher and I deal with a myriad of behavior and academic needs. For example, some of my students have attention problems and require constant reminders and redirections. Others have problems with authority and tend to act out to get attention. Others have a hard time learning complex topics so we have to break them down and try to reach all the kids. Most classes are very tiring but rewarding when the kids leave having learned something. After school, usually I have to attend a meeting to discuss a student with special needs, and a couple days a week I tutor. Once I finish tutoring and meetings, I head down to wrestling practice to coach until 6pm. I enjoy coaching wrestling because it gives me a chance to work with kids on something physical and teach them about hard work, discipline, and achieving their goals. Also, last year I founded a Middle East Culture Club at my school along with another teacher with the goal of taking students to Egypt this spring break. Since Egypt has erupted in civil strife, we had to change our destination to China (luckily the Explorica company is willing to work with us on it). I usually leave school around 6pm and get home at 7pm. On most nights, I have some work to do to prepare for the next day and I try to take some time to rest before I have to go back to it again.
In reflecting on my experience at BC and how it relates to my job now, I believe that the most valuable experience I had at BC was through extracurricular programs. As much as I loved academic learning, teaching requires leadership skills more than it does academic knowledge. I feel like I learned much more practical leadership skills from leading an Appalachia trip, or planning an event with a student club, or organizing a Kairos retreat, then I did from reading, listening to lectures, and writing papers. While I do miss being a student for sure, it was those entrepreneurial type experiences that helped me grow my leadership skills to tackle the problems I face everyday in the classroom.
In short, my days are long, I’m typically tired and overworked, but I am really happy that my job allows me to make a difference. I’m so lucky to have real responsibilities and be able to impact so many people in my daily life.