MxAA Stipend Recipient, Liz ’11 Teacher In Training

Liz ’11 reports on her 2015 summer internship experience.

I am very grateful that the Alumni Association elected to award me a stipend for this summer. I am part of a program similar to Teach for America, called teachNOLA. The program has an intensive 5-week training program during June and July, which is why I applied for the stipend because I moved to a new city and would not be able to work. Thanks to the Alumni Association, I was able to take this opportunity to participate in a program I felt passionately about.

Training was exhausting. I had never taught a class before, and suddenly I was spending all of my day practicing teaching and then going home to prepare for the next day. The school I taught at for my summer training was housed in trailers. The students were a mix of black and Hispanic, with no white students. Some of the Hispanic students spoke little to no English. Summer school for them was their last chance to move onto the next grade, or be retained for the next year.

Teaching was a rollercoaster. During one class I would have a great moment, and then want to scream in frustration in the next. I was assigned to teach my class Algebra 1; however, because another person in my program dropped, there was no longer a pre-Algebra teacher, so I inherited all of her students. My class became mostly pre-Algebra students – so I was teaching kids who had failed pre-Algebra, Algebra, and a subject that they would learn only at the end of a full year of Algebra. The lack of a foundation of math was astounding. Almost all of my students struggled to add and subtract, especially with negative numbers, as well as multiply and divide. Some of them were extremely far behind in their reading level, so even if they might be able to do the math, they couldn’t read the problems. Then there was my group of Spanish-speakers, who could barely understand the lesson, let alone the problems on their page. It was one of the more challenging experiences I’ve ever had, especially because these kids come from high-trauma backgrounds, which causes them to be more prone to be aggressive and unable to control their emotions. Even through all of that, the last day of summer school rolled around and I was very sad to be leaving them. I had gotten to know quite a few of them very well; one of whom I still keep in touch with.

My actual job teaching Algebra 1 at Grace King High has been a drastically different experience. The population at Grace King is majority Hispanic, then the rest is split half and half between black and white. Most of my students are not nearly as far behind as the students I taught over the summer, and school supplies are not as much of an issue (my kids at summer school didn’t bring notebooks or pencils; I had to make a work packet for them every day). However, now that I am a full-time teacher, I have the administrative duties that accompany being a teacher, which so far has been overwhelming and hard to balance with the time it takes to create a well-planned lesson. I have had challenging students, but as we’ve gotten accustomed to each other, they became more comfortable around me and less likely to react angrily to my corrections during class.

Overall, I am extremely happy I made this decision to move to New Orleans and teach. I am truly grateful that Middlesex was able to help me do this.