Teacher Observations

The school year officially started on Monday, which meant that we began observations/helping out a teacher in the morning, and then a different one in the afternoon. We rinsed and repeated this schedule for the rest of the week, and because City Year helps in math or ELA (English Language Arts) classes from 1st to 5th grade, I’ve discovered that my math skills are so great, I can barely do 4th grade math. (Take that, “All Asians are good at math” stereotype.)

When it comes to school demographics, it’s different from anything I’ve ever experienced. Instead of having all white teachers, I’ve seen 3 white men and maybe 4 white women in the entire school–the rest are black, and I think I’ve seen one Asian and one Hispanic teacher. For the students, it’s pretty similar: aside from 3 Hispanic ones and a biracial set of twins who look white, everyone’s black (-passing). But on to the fun part, the actions/quotes of children:

  • When I followed a teacher into the office so that I could later watch the solar eclipse with her, this tiny kid who barely came up past my knee saw me in uniform, ran up to me, and hugged me. I don’t even know who she was, but I think that’s when it truly hit me that City Years are so well-known within the Ketcham community. (One of my biggest fears is that I’m going to accidentally trip over a kid one day. The pre-K to 2nd graders are so tiny.)
  • A kid told me that he had 100 brothers, but couldn’t even keep a straight face
  • His younger sister is the cutest little thing, a kindergartner who said “Thank you!” whenever I set down part of her breakfast in front of her. One of my teammates and a teacher started talking to her in Spanish, and she made such an adorable laugh that I want to bottle it up in a jar (someone teach me Spanish so I that can talk to her and hear that laugh again)
  • “Your hair is so long and smooth! Do you have to get your hair done? My grandma can do your hair”
  • A second grader gave me her sticker from art class, which means that she truly loves me. I stuck it in my travel journal so that I can cherish it forever
  • At recess, a 1st-grade girl asked me why I was wearing a ring. I replied, “I like wearing rings,” and then she asked if I had a man. (My spinner ring looks nothing like a wedding or engagement ring–it’s a band of steel with a dinosaur pattern.) I said, “No, I’m a strong independent woman and I don’t need a man,” and then I started chanting and clapping, “You don’t need a man” and they joined in. Goal of the year: turn the children into baby feminists
  • During lunch, a 1st grader ran up to hug me, and I told her to sit down at her table, resulting in a “Bye bye, Mommy!” Please no. I am nobody’s mother.
  • “You look like Anna! From Frozen because of your hair” (I still don’t understand this because Anna’s white and ginger, but okay)
  • A 1st grader was absolutely convinced that I’m the same age as one of the teachers because we’re the same height. Apparently height and age differences is not a thing that 7-year-olds grasp
  • This little 2nd grader literally started petting my hair. I’m going to start putting my hair up from now on to deter these grubby little hands
  • When a 5th grader asked, “Are you a teenager?” I couldn’t keep the offense out of my voice when I replied, “No, I’m an adult!”

We finally got our teacher placements yesterday, and I got…*drumroll*… 2nd grade ELA! I’m excited because that’s the grade I wanted, but we’ll see how well I can teach 7-8 year olds how to read, spell, and write because, unlike French, English makes no phonetic sense. To tide you over until next week, check out all nine of us (plus our manager) in uniforms that ensure we can never go to Target:

First day of school

From left to right: H, Sa, Z, R, N, T, C, Sh, J, and me

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Final Week of Training

We spent the week looking like Target employees, because our current uniform pieces consist of a red t-shirt tucked into khakis. While being walking City Year advertisements:

  • We met a majority of the teachers at Ketcham, most of whom were WOC, and let me tell you, I am beyond excited to be in an environment where I’m not surrounded by white people–or more specifically, white men. I think I could legitimately count the number of white teachers there on one hand.
  • A warm-up activity involved moving around the room depending on social identifiers such as race, physical ability, sexuality, age, ethnicity, marital status, etc., and I stepped over to the race sign in response to the social identity that I’m always aware of. I started talking about how diversity is important because, aside from two Chinese classes in college, I’ve never had an Asian teacher or professor, and a white male teacher replied, “I’m coming from the other side, privilege…” and I thought, “Oh, my heart, I hope this entire school is social justice-aware.”
  • The school fed us free soul food for lunch, and in case you were ever wondering, free food is one of the ways to my heart (as long as it’s not R-MC or American cafeteria food)
  • I was placed in a math workshop even though I’d signed up for the English Language Arts one, so I muttered jokingly, “This is racial profiling”
    • Z: *begins laughing at me*
    • R, noticing her laughter: “Sarena, you’re so cute”
    • Z: “Sarena? No, she’s so salty”
  • At the math workshop, a corps member told me, “There’s someone on our team who can’t do math. We asked her what 6 x 7 is, and she was like, ‘I don’t know'”
    • I stared at him blankly before replying, “I don’t know, either”
  • Everyone on my team has applied for and then been assigned coordinator roles, so I’m now officially in charge of positive school climate
  • My team had a training session about how to talk to kids about Charlottesville and other sensitive subjects
  • I had a nice bonding conversation with a teacher about being WOC, and small world, she’d actually lived in Short Pump for a while
  • “What’s your name? Sarena? I’ve never seen it spelled like that before”
  • I broke down laughing because three elementary school boys saw several of my teammates and me, and while the older ones excitedly announced, “New City Years!” the smallest one muttered, “I don’t know none of these people so I can’t talk to them”
  • Decorating our CY room was a great team bonding experience–I stuck Leslie Knope compliments on everyone’s lockerIMG_6112

City Year Camp

Last week consisted of more tedious PowerPoints that have probably permanently shortened my attention span, so I’m going to spare you from that boredom and instead get into the Summer Leadership Academy, a week-long program led and taught by CY members. My team worked with K-2 students, and I legitimately forgot how small children actually are. The highlights (both positive and negative), but mostly comments by/about the students:

  • A 4-year-old, about fruit punch CapriSun: “It tastes fresh.”
  • I almost cried several times because these children were just so small and cute and pure…when they were behaving, at least.
  • A kid threw herself into my lap and shouted, “Mommy!” I almost noped my way out of the room. I am nobody’s mother. I’d rather be called Madame.
  • These kids were simply fascinated by non-black people’s hair. One kid told me, “I like your hair!” and now I can’t dye it again. (Kidding, I have to get rid of the “unprofessional” pink/purple/grayish-brown streak.)
  • One 4-year-old, who’d spent a good portion of the morning crying, asked me while I was walking him to recess, “Is Mommy coming back? Fast?”
    • As I’m walking him to the bathroom after recess: “You said Mommy was coming back!”
  • An attempt to say “arts and crafts” became, “I love arts and crabs.”
  • A 2nd grader: “Why are you always laughing?” (Do I look that smiley???)
  • One kid told me that Freddy the Bear was going to eat me. Guess I can’t trust anyone named Freddy.
    • This kid was happily drawing animal characters from the video game Five Nights at Freddy’s, and then suddenly said, “I’m going to get red. For the blood,” and just casually got up and headed for the markers.
  • A kid, after she fell down and started crying: “I want soda!”
  • Two children, looking at and arguing about a postcard of the Temple Bar in Ireland: “Is that the Flash? Why is he in the picture? No, that’s not him!”
  • A first-grader, about a snow cone: “It tastes like red.”
  • I hardcore disappointed a kid because she was running around tickling random corps members, but I have the magical power of being utterly unticklish.
  • It’s sad how gender stereotypes are already ingrained in these children. I was wearing one of my brother’s old clip-on ties in an attempt to make my t-shirt look less casual, and a 1st grader asked, “Why are you wearing that? Ties are for boys.” Sigh.

These children get so attached so quickly, I don’t know how I feel about it. Also, a friend and I had this wonderful venting session because of many reasons, including one very lovely moment when we got called “push-y over-y.” Thanks. Ahem. I’m going to stop the salt here and say that this academy/summer camp was such a good hands-on, learning experience for when we actually start work on the 24th.

You’ve been in France too long when you…

  • Are both confused and horrified that a grocery store is open until 9pm on a Sunday
  • Catch yourself daydreaming about French bread
  • Procrastinate on packing for days and then stuff a box full of French books. Priorities.
  • See someone smoking and immediately think, “How dare you? That’s only supposed to happen in Europe!”
  • Wrinkle your nose whenever your parents see “French bread” at grocery stores and ask if you want some, to which your only response can be a despondent, “That’s not French bread”
  • Dream about telling your roommates that you’re a French snob when it comes to food (the sad thing is, that’s completely true)
  • Are deeply offended by the fact that a one-way, 20-minute trip on the DC metro costs $3.85. Why does American public transportation suck so much?
  • Think you’re hallucinating when you see an ad in French on the other side of the tracks. Nope, turns out that the Alliance Française happened to know where to find me.
  • Still can’t believe that America can justify charging $2.99 for a loaf of bread when you can walk into Carrefour and buy a baguette for under a euro. Capitalism, ugh. Take me back to the French cost of living.
  • Stand at your dining room window and yell at a guy, “Sir, pick up your dog’s poop! This isn’t France!”
  • Get beyond excited when you meet an aspiring French major and two people with French mothers
  • Stumble across a farmers market near a metro stop and become absurdly happy because it reminds you of walking through France. And then proceed to stare in shock at a baguette’s $4 price tag and a $3 pain au chocolat labeled “chocolate croissant”
  • Learn from a random City Year person you’ve never seen before that she’s already heard that you’re planning to apply to grad school for French. It’s been all of one week, and I’ve already established a reputation as the French nerd.
  • See a French flag hanging outside a classroom in your elementary school and want to know who that teacher is so you can work with them
  • Basically go to Giant for the sole purpose of purchasing buy-one-get-one-free French yogurt (look how cute these little pots are, though!)
  • IMG_6085
  • Hear a City Year person say “French” on the metro, so you instantly look up and walk towards them because that’s a conversation you need to join
  • Are low-key tempted to buy a French pastry from the farmers market but are afraid that it won’t live up to your expectations
  • Have never been happier to see that the Silver Spring library has four whole shelves of French books
  • Can’t resist buying a 5-cent postcard from a thrift store because it reminds you of your study abroad days in the Côte d’Azur
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