I am so sad that my time at Breakthrough New York has come to an end. These last few weeks have been incredibly fun and meaningful. My geometry students were thrilled to have completed the difficult proofs unit and start learning about transformations, while my digital music production students were exploring GarageBand and putting the finishing touches to their final songs. As the summer was coming to a close, I was given the responsibility of writing student evaluations to be sent home to parents. Although it was a tedious task, it made me reflect on my teaching and realize just how much I have learned from my students.
Over the course of the summer, I have faced many challenges and triumphs that have allowed me to grow as a teacher. One of the biggest obstacles I encountered as a Teaching Fellow was dealing with two students, in particular, who were constantly struggling to keep up with their classmates. Initially, Ella and I attempted to implement a co-teaching model where one of us taught the class, while the other sat with the two students to provide them with assistance throughout the lesson. When we didn’t see improvement, we asked our instructional coach to pull the students out of class and teach them a portion of the lesson so that they could get even more individualized attention. However, I found that the most effective way to help them was to work one-on-one with them during Family Time, and read through the guided notes together. Even though there were times when I felt like I was failing as a teacher, I discovered that there is no correct formula to teaching; I just have to learn from my mistakes and continue to experiment with new ideas.
One of the main reasons I have learned so much from the Breakthrough program is because I was constantly receiving support and feedback from my co-teacher and instructional coach. Ella and Marisol have been instrumental in my growth over the summer. At the end of each lesson, Ella and I discussed what went well and what could have gone better; she had great advice for ways I could improve my teaching. We were fortunate to have Marisol, an experienced teacher, observe our classes on a weekly basis and follow-up with growth conferences. She helped us enhance our teaching methods to best serve the students, gave us useful resources for geometry teachers, and was always there to answer any questions that arose. I am so thankful to have had such a great mentor.
As I look back over the summer, there are countless phenomenal memories that come to mind. Some of my favorite experiences that stand out are the special event days, which occurred each Friday. I loved learning about everyone’s differing backgrounds on Diversity Day, singing cheers with my team during Spirit Olympics, watching students perform skits and dances at Open Mic, and participating in the end of summer celebration ceremony. I will always cherish the strong bonds I made with my students and co-workers. My time at Breakthrough has been an invaluable learning experience, one that I will never forget. I cannot wait to continue my passion of working with children and helping to reduce educational inequality.
I have spent the past three weeks teaching and getting to know the Breakthrough students, and have enjoyed every second of it. There have been obstacles and challenges along the way, but from day one, I saw enormous potential, talent, and motivation in my 9th grade geometry class. After meeting the students, I was so relieved to find how respectful, enthusiastic, and caring they were. Although I have only known them for a short time, I feel as though I have already made such strong and meaningful connections.
During my first week as a co-teacher, I discovered the varying abilities and learning styles of my students through their classroom participation and homework grades. Ella and I soon realized that our curriculum needed modification, as the ninth graders had prior knowledge of geometry and were familiar with the material we were teaching them. We decided to combine the first few lessons and teach them at a faster pace so that we would have more time to introduce the new and challenging topic of geometric proofs. I have learned that teaching is a never-ending process of creating curricular materials, grading students’ work, and writing and revising lesson plans to meet the needs of all learners.
As the weeks flew by, I became accustomed to my daily routine at BTNY, and even looked forward to going to work each morning. I start each day off by printing and copying lesson materials, meeting with all Manhattan Teaching Fellows, and chatting with the students at breakfast. I spend the rest of the morning teaching two geometry classes and working with Ella on grading and lesson planning. Lunch time is one of my favorite parts of the day because the students enthusiastically sing cheers at the top of their lungs, making everyone in the program feel included in a community. In the afternoons, I teach my elective course (digital music production), supervise Family Time, lead an advisory session, and attend All School Meeting, which is when Chilee makes announcements and students participate in fun challenges, like the cup stacking challenge. Each day, I leave BTNY with a smile on my face and I feel grateful that I get to be a part of this wonderful organization.
For the past three weeks, I have been training to be a Teaching Fellow at Breakthrough New York (BTNY), a non-profit organization that runs a rigorous academic intensive college access program for 90 high-potential, underserved middle school students. As a Teaching Fellow, I will co-teach geometry to 32 rising 9th graders, as well as digital music production to 16 middle school students. My other responsibilities include planning special events, like Open Mic, running an advisory group comprised of four 9th graders, and overseeing and supporting students during breakfast and lunch activities, as well as during Family Time (i.e., study hall). In preparation for the summer internship, I attended an intensive training program with 72 Teaching Fellows from the three BTNY sites: Manhattan, Brooklyn, and the Bronx.
During the first week of training, I met my co-teacher, Ella, my instructional coach, Marisol, and my site coordinator, Chilee. From the very start, I could tell how dedicated and motivated everyone was to be working at Breakthrough. In the mornings, all Teaching Fellows attended seminars on a specific teacher skill, such as behavior management or lesson planning, and in the afternoons, we broke into smaller site-team groups to practice the skill in interactive workshops led by our site coordinator. As a geometry teacher, I also partook in math department meetings, during which Marisol taught myself and the other Manhattan math Teaching Fellows subject-specific skills. I was overwhelmed throughout the entire first week of training because I was presented with a great deal of information regarding instructional strategies, Teaching Fellow expectations, and lesson plan deadlines. Ella and I were nervous when we found out that our week one lesson plans were due to our instructional coach only four days after day one of training. Fortunately, we quickly learned that we make a great team, as we divided up the work, while still helping each other out with creative ideas and constructive feedback.
The next two weeks of training followed the same structure with seminars, workshops, and meetings, but also consisted of more individual work time, which is when Ella and I created our week 2 and 3 lesson plans. Marisol gave us a comprehensive objective map to follow when designing lessons; the beginning topics include basic geometry terminology, special angle pairs, finding missing angle measures/segment lengths, and proofs. In addition, Ella and I learned various co-teaching models, and had the opportunity to practice teaching our lessons in front of the Manhattan Teaching Fellows, who gave us helpful praises and prompts. Besides for participating in lesson preparation, I also met with my Open Mic committee to plan the special event for the students, worked with my elective co-teacher to familiarize ourselves with digital music production, and learned the countless Breakthrough cheers and chants that make the program so unique, fun, and spirited.
All-in-all, the three-week training was overwhelming, informative, intensive, and necessary to the future success of the summer program. Prior to this experience, I felt unprepared and uncertain about my ability to teach a group of middle schoolers. However, I am now confident in myself and incredibly excited to meet and teach my students. I know that I have a community of Teaching Fellows, Instructional Coaches, and Breakthrough Staff to support me along the way.