Teaching to Read and Learning to Teach

So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless. -1 Corinthians 15:58

group

 

I am comfortably settling in to my job at Encore Academy. My job is proving to be challenging, but I am enjoying it very much.

A lot of my day is spent helping second grade teachers. The second graders rotate classrooms for English, Math and Science, so I follow one homeroom class to their different classes and assist the “real” teachers with whatever they need. I know those thirty kids pretty well now.

However, the most important part of my job is meeting with groups of first and second graders who are behind a grade level in reading. After lunch I meet with a group of six second graders and we play spelling games where we write letters on small tiles and rearrange them to spell different words. Later I spend time with six first graders, and we sort pictures into charts of letters. We talk about what letter each word starts with and then review letter names and letter sounds.

blog1

blog2

An example of how we use our letter tiles in my second grade group

Most of my kids are improving in their reading, and I can tell their answers to my questions are coming to them quicker and easier. I really enjoy spending time with these 12 students, and I can’t wait to see their reading improve even more.

The most challenging part of my job is discipline. Anyone who has met me can imagine how I much I can fail when it comes to being stern and telling anyone what to do with any authority. I have had kids laugh at me when I try to correct their behavior, and I still don’t have complete control over my small groups. I have had to break my first grade group into two groups of three so that certain kids don’t disrupt the learning by talking to each other instead of listening to me. I feel like I have tried everything–letting the kids come up with rewards and consequences, giving multiple reminders, giving them plenty of opportunities to participate so they’re not just sitting and listening, making a big deal out of kids who are following directions to encourage the other kids to follow that example–but there are days when I feel like there’s nothing I can do to get my students to pay attention and stay calm so they can learn. If anyone has any advice for me I will gladly try anything. I love every student dearly, but sometimes I get frustrated with my inability to have any authority over them.

To end on a happy note, I am still enjoying life in New Orleans. My housemates are awesome and we have a lot of fun together. Here is a group picture of all of us on Halloween.

halloween

Welcome to New Orleans

We have suffered terror and pitfalls, ruin and destruction. Streams of tears flow from my eyes because my people are destroyed. — Lamentations 3:47-48

Our first week in New Orleans was spent getting used to the city and learning about what is possibly the most important part of the city’s history: Hurricane Katrina. Part of our orientation was watching a 4 part documentary by Spike Lee called When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts. It’s long but I learned so much and I highly recommend that everyone watch it. Below is a 15 minute clip about how the levees failed and some of the people who were trapped in their homes (*please watch it*). There is some profane language in the clip, for understandable reasons. The video includes a picture of the Circle Food Store, and a couple of days after watching the documentary, my housemates and I drove past the store. It was so strange to see that store, or see spray painted walls on houses that were searched for dead bodies. Watching a documentary or hearing about the hurricane on the news does not necessarily make the events feel real, but seeing the real-life remnants of Katrina is very different and hard to describe in words. We also visited a museum in the French Quarter about Katrina, and we visited one of the levees that broke. It was about a 5 minute drive from our house. It’s been ten years since Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans but it will always be a huge part of the culture here.

A house next to the levee we visited. The hole in the roof is where someone used an ax to escape from the attic.

A house next to the levee we visited. The hole in the roof is where someone used an ax to escape from the attic.

On the happier side of our orientation week, we went on a walking tour of the French Quarter, and went on a scavenger hunt around the city to get to know our way around and learn more about things to do around New Orleans. Below are  a few pictures of our adventures.

I wore my rain jacket and rain boots my first week here. I did not really enjoy the rain. Also pictured: my housemate Jean

I wore my rain jacket and rain boots my first week here. I did not really enjoy the rain. Also pictured: my housemate Jean

Beignets from Cafe Du Monde in the French Quarter

Beignets from Cafe Du Monde in the French Quarter

Mardi Gras beads on someone's gate. Also pictured: my housemate Haley

Mardi Gras beads on someone’s gate. Also pictured: my housemate Haley

Mardi Gras masks. Also pictured: my housemates Mindy and Haley

Mardi Gras masks. Also pictured: my housemates Mindy and Haley

St. Louis Cathedral in the French Quarter

St. Louis Cathedral in the French Quarter

My roommate Jocelyn and me enjoying a snowball

My roommate Jocelyn and me enjoying a snowball

Our whole group on our walking tour! From left to right: Jocelyn, Sydney, Jean, me, Mindy, Haley, Vincent, Brad, and our site coordinator Layne

Our whole group on our walking tour! From left to right: Jocelyn, Sydney, Jean, me, Mindy, Haley, Vincent, Brad, and our site coordinator Layne

Reorientation and Reexamination

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. — Matthew 5:10

The 2015-16 class of first year YAVs at orientation in New York.

The 2015-16 class of first year YAVs at orientation in New York.

Before beginning our year as Young Adult Volunteers, we spent a week in Stony Point, NY for orientation. We learned so much and I won’t be able to put together words that will do the week justice. But here are 3 important lessons I learned:

  1. White privilege is real. Most of the Young Adult Volunteers come from families that did not struggle to get what we needed. If I wanted something growing up, I would ask for it, and my parents would usually get it for me. We were given many opportunities that many minorities did not, and in general, white people get treated better than people of different ethnicities. It’s a sad fact, but it is a fact. At Stony Point we learned that we can’t “fix” our privilege. Our society created white privilege many years ago and changing that will take many more years (if it’s ever changed at all). Whether or not white people like myself like it or support it, we benefit from white privilege.
The green area represents the privileged population; those society deems

The green area represents the privileged population; those society deems “good.” The orange area represents those on the outskirts and not as highly valued as those in the center. The dark spot represents YAVs; we will spend the year living among those on the borders, while realizing our own privilege.

2. We are not going out to “help” the underprivileged. Some people may go into a year of service thinking we are going to help people who are less privileged than us and bring them closer to being “like us.” But minorities, the homeless, and the poor do not necessarily need our help. They need allies. Young Adult Volunteers are sent out to work with the underprivileged to achieve social goals together.

3. This year is for me. This year is about being uncomfortable and learning to see the darkness and suffering in the world. Our experiences as Young Adult Volunteers this year are more about dramatically changing ourselves, rather than the whole world. We are not going to be able to bring about world peace this year, but we’ll gain awareness of the inequality and injustice in the world and work to make small changes. In doing so, we will become stronger and able to be better allies to those who need them.

This year is meant to be difficult. I will be changed by my experiences, and I am willing to embrace the possibility of challenges.

The first year New Orleans YAVs on the front steps of the Stony Point Center.

The first year New Orleans YAVs on the front steps of the Stony Point Center.

My New House!

…But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD — Joshua 24:15

I moved into the YAV house in New Orleans yesterday. My dad and I took a long 3-day road trip together from Tucson to New Orleans. We spent the second day wandering around San Antonio, and it was a nice break from driving.

The Alamo

The Alamo

My dad and me on a river boat tour of the San Antonio River

My dad and me on a river boat tour of the San Antonio River

On Thursday we drove from San Antonio to New Orleans and it was stressful. Texas got a lot of rain on Thursday and it made driving on the highway difficult. I could not see more than a few feet in front of me.

The rain driving through Houston

The while rain driving through Houston

On Friday afternoon, we arrived at the YAV house. I was afraid that I had overpacked but there was room for all of my stuff (minus my winter clothes which I kept in my suitcase). I will be living here with 7 other YAVs. I am excited to get to know my housemates and start working here in NOLA, but first we will by flying to Stony Point, NY for YAV Orientation.

Here are some pictures of the YAV house:

house

The front of our house. I love the color.

My half of the bedroom. I bought the yellow quilt without knowing my room would be yellow. It worked out perfectly!

My half of the bedroom. I bought the yellow quilt without knowing my room would be yellow. It worked out perfectly!

The dining/living rooms

The dining/living rooms

Please keep us in your prayers as we travel to and from orientation and learn to live with each other!

I Have a Job!

Then Esau looked at the women and children and asked, “Who are these people with you?” “These are the children God has graciously given to me, your servant,” Jacob replied. —Genesis 33:5

After months of waiting a little less than patiently (but only a little), I have been placed as a volunteer with Encore Academy in New Orleans. Encore Academy is an elementary school that has an emphasis on the arts. All students are required to take music, art, and dance classes as part of the curriculum.

I will be working as part of Encore’s intervention team. I will be giving assessments to children who are falling behind in reading and math, and helping them improve their skills.

I have been working with children for two years now, so I know that I am capable to do this job. I pray that I will be helpful to the students and the school as a whole, and that I will be a good fit for Encore Academy.

Welcome to Courtney’s YAV Year!

Hello, everyone! Thank you so much for supporting me on this journey! I am so excited to share my experiences with you. Please subscribe to this blog to stay up to date on my triumphs and challenges during my time in New Orleans, LA, otherwise known as NOLA.

I’m still on my last leg of college here in Tucson. I am extremely stressed out and I haven’t even had time to think about what’s going to happen in NOLA. But as things happen I will document them here, in words and pictures.

The only thing I’m sure of at the moment is that I love you for your support, because I will definitely need it throughout this exciting and stressful time!