Institute started on Monday with classroom site visits and sessions at our schools. As I'm sure everyone would guess, we were all nervous to see what lay ahead!
Our schools ranged in distance from an hour away to 5 minutes away. Depending on your distance you got on the buses between 6:00 and 6:50am. I lucked out and was placed in East Side High School in Cleveland, MS -- the same town that our Institute is held.
During our days so far we have learned some very basic things -- For Example, the achievement gap is consistently stressed but so is the progress that can be made. We're taught not to bring in our outside biases into conflicts in the classroom to ensure that our students excel.
We had Welcoming Ceremonies after the first full day of work and represented our areas through cheer competitions. Out of the 7 regions represented at Institute Training the MS Delta (my region) has the largest representation. We all sat in the back of the auditorium so when we started cheering everyone looked back and saw half of the trainees yelling and screaming and throwing up some Delta hand signs.
Although Institute is rumored to be one of the hardest experiences, it so far has been super enjoyable. I've met so many people from all over Teach For America's regions (Appalachia, Memphis, Southern Louisiana, Louisiana Delta, and more!).
My Corps Member Advisor, who leads us in our development through trainings and observations with feedback, is Harold. He is the man. He looked at us on Day One and said,
"You will not work past 8pm. There is no need for that to happen. My goal is to be in bed by 10pm and that's because you will submitting things for my review at 8pm. But also, some CMs like to take breaks in the middle of the day. We will work from 7:30am until 8pm so that you have the rest of the time free."
This is contrary to some CMAs who aim to put in every last hour into work, when it's really about working smarter not harder.
At this point, it's important for you to note that my Institute experience will be different than somes'. First, I don't do stress -- it's just not my thing. Secondly, I have lucked out extremely. Not only do I summer teach in a school 5 minutes away from Institute, but I also have the best CMA who is teaching us the proper material in a smart way AND I have the best subject (math) which makes it easier to do things systematically.
Ultimately, I want to take my excess energy from my Institute Days and put them back into Institute through providing support to other CMs and making sure that we keep our community healthy. These days will be hard, long and tiring, but these days will be filled with growth, excitement and new experiences.
I have made the personal choice to also try to stay healthy myself. For the last week and a half, my MS Delta CMs have continued to bond over sports. I find myself regularly picking up a volleyball, frisbee, football or putting on my running shoes. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, I wake up at 4:30am (far before I need to wake up) and head out for a run with other CMs. At night after Institute, we all just find others to go to the courts or the field. The experience has been amazing because I've never been around so many sport fans, or physically active people. I look forward to eventually getting the beach body (even if I'll never have the time for the beach!).
Every day is a new day with more content to learn, but it's been hugely valuable for me to take it all in and put my hands into the dirty work.