This post goes out to all of my readers that are in Teach For America Institute this summer! I have had email, facebook, and in-face questions about Institute so I wanted to have a central location on my thoughts about the experience.
1. What is Institute:
For all of you Non-TFA folk, Institute is a 6 week intensive teacher training experience that takes place at different locations across the country. Teachers spend 2 weeks learning about classroom managment, lesson planning, and culture building and 4 weeks teaching in local summer school programs. My Institute took place in the hot, mosquito infested, rural Mississippi Delta! I honestly had a fantastic time and wouldn't want to have been anywhere else. Currently South Carolina TFA crops members are attending Institute in Atlanta, Georgia.
2. Lesson Planning
The answer is No. No you will not do lesson plans at your placement school in South Carolina with the same detail that you are asked to do them at Institute. My lesson plans during the year took me about 20 minutes while my lesson plans at Institute took 2 hours and 56 minutes at the minimum. The point of the detailed lesson planning at Institute is to teach you structure. If you understand how to break down a lesson plan by Dependent Practice, Independent Practice, Assessment, etc., it will be easier when you hand in a simplified version to your school. To cover myself, please note that some schools may require extremely detailed lesson plans, but it is not common.
Be prepared to put in a ton of time and effort for your Institute lesson plans but know that the knowledge you learn while making them will make your transition to the classroom in the fall that much easier.
3. Time Management
But best piece of advice for Institute is plan to have no free time and be thrilled when you do! The first week of Institute was insane. Between waking up at 4 and finishing lesson plans at 8pm, I had to choose between sleep, gym, and hanging out! I usually cut sleep out of the line up and made up for it on my 3 hours a day on the bus. However, because I wasn't expecting to have ANY free time, my hour at the gym, and sonic run with the girls was so appreciated.
Pick the things that are most important to you (sleep, friends, gym, games, etc) and enjoy those AFTER your work is done!
4. Institute vs. Your Real Classroom- Classroom Management
Honestly, and this is not TFA's stance, but I thought Institute was no preparation for the fall as far as Classroom Management. You are put into teaching teams and I only taught 1 hour a day 4 days a week. That is not preparation for the exhaustion and short temper that sets in after 7 hours of teaching 5 days a week! Because my students only had be 1 hour a week, they pretty much stayed in their honeymoon period for the entire 4 weeks. They didn't have enough time to figure out what makes me bad, or how to interrupt class! Some classrooms didn't have this experience, but for the most part I didn't have a single classroom management problem. Some of the people that HUGE classroom management problems at institute had it much easier when they got to build real relationships with their students in the call I thought that my easy time meant I was THE BOMB in the classroom at management... apparently not...
If you have a breeze at Institute with classroom management be prepared for it to be much much harder at your placement school. Seeing the same kids every day for 1.5 hours changes the game just a little bit!
I don't want that to discourage anyone, just be aware that it is very different!
5. Build Relationships
Build Relationships with the other teachers that will be in your area- see you thought I was going to say build relationships with your kids! TFA will tell you about building student relationships enough that you don't need to hear it from me as well. What they may not stress is building relationships with the other teachers. I can't tell you how many times the friendships that I built with the teachers in my area helped keep my spirits high. I still keep in touch with some of the teachers that I met that are teaching all around the country.
Don't be a recluse! Hang out and be a friend to the awesome people that are around you. They will provide some awesome weekend events and time to hang out so take advantage of those.
ALSO: Watch this AMAZING video that our CMAs made at Institute!
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I am 25 years old with a 2 year old son and a wicked handsome husband living in Birmingham, Alabama.