As I myself head off to be a CMA at Philly Institute, I know there are brand new 2014 Corps Members who are experiencing their first day of Delta Institute today. And as a former attendee of Delta Institute, I have a few tips for them, might they happen upon my blog. A lot of these tips actually could apply to any Institute, so read on, 2014 Corps Members, and skip the ones about mosquitoes and mosquito trucks if you are attending Institute elsewhere.
In no particular order of importance here are some thing you should know:
-You hear everyone talk about bug spray and mosquitoes and you might think it is exaggerated. It is not. However, I have a better solution than bug spray. Perfume. Not just any perfume. Spray on some fruity or flowery stuff and you are bound to attract even more bugs. You want an earthy, herby perfume: Patchouli. I swear by it. I used to put on bug spray everyone morning and I would still get bit. Except sometimes I would not. After several considerations, I noticed it was mornings when I put on perfume (I wear a perfume called Opulence that you can purchase here) that I sustained very few, if any, mosquito bites. Seriously. Try it. I promise.
-Eat a big breakfast. C’mon, I know it gets old, but Delta State dining hall is pretty good. Big pile of eggs with green onions on top and tons of pepper, a roll, a bowl of Raisin Bran. Eat a lot. A big breakfast is really important when you are about to have a big day ahead of you. Also, remember that you are getting up really early and probably traveling pretty far, so it will likely be a while before you get to each lunch. Don’t be shy. Can’t eat right away in the morning? Wrap some things up in a napkin or bring a tupperware container with you so you can eat on the bus. (I actually don’t know if this is allowed, but it sounds like a good idea. You do whatchya gotta do.)
-Protein Bars. Luna, Cliff Bar, etc. They were my best friends at Institute. I would throw one in my lunch bag every day. You are working really, really hard. And (if you are vegetarian like me) your lunch might leave something to be desired. I mean, what is really in those PB&J, anyway? So yeah, take a trip to WalMart, buy a couple big boxes and throw one in your bag every day. It will give you that extra burst of energy when you most need it.
-Watch out for the spray trucks. If you see that flashing light, run or you will get covered in massive amounts of whatever they spray out of those trucks to kill/deter mosquitoes.
-Take time to enjoy what the Delta has to offer. I know you want to relax (if you’re like me) or party (if you’re like most everyone else), but the Delta has a lot to offer and even if you will be teaching in Mississippi, take this time when you aren’t quite yet a busy first year teacher to go to some museums, some historic landmarks, etc. Experience the Mississippi culture, because, trust me, there is nothing like it. : )
-Don’t spend too much on your summer school classroom. Remember that you are about to have your very own permanent classroom that you will inevitably need to spend money on and you don’t want to use it all up on the classroom you have for four or five weeks. NOT to say that your work with your kids at Institute is not important: Trust me, IT IS! BUT don’t break the bank. You will soon be moving to (probably) a brand new place. You will likely have security deposits, need to stock up your fridge, need gas money, etc, and like I said, you will need to buy supplies for your own classroom. AND all this happens before you receive a paycheck, which you will not get until the END of August. SO: Set yourself a modest budget of how much you think you can afford to spend on your summer classroom and don’t go over it!! Be creative. You don’t need to spend tons of money to make amazing things happen with your summer school students!
-You can’t be a good teacher, you can’t make “transformational change” if you are not getting enough sleep. Set yourself a bedtime. And then, when that time rolls around, go to bed. Better yet, set yourself a pre-bedtime, when you will stop doing work and wind down a little before you go to sleep. Will you miss that bedtime a few times throughout Institute? Probably, and don’t beat yourself up about it, but try your very hardest to stick to it each night. This will also build a good habit once you move to your placement school.
-Keep a journal. Or a blog. Or both. Or some kind of way that you can collect your thoughts each night, or once a week, or whatever works for you. It can be public, it can be private. Typed, videos, sketches, stories. Whatever works for you. However this looks for you, I encourage you to seriously consider this as something important to your Institute experience. You will be doing and taking in about a million things a day. Not only will this help you to process everything, but later, when you look back on your Institute experience, you will be able to remember how you were feeling, what you were doing. Maybe looking over it your second year of teaching will reignite that passion you felt during Institute. Or maybe, you will look back and be proud of how far you have come if you were really struggling in Institute. It looks different for everyone, but I think you should try it!
-Finally, be open minded, but stay grounded. There is a lot going on during Institute that could have you way up in the clouds, feeling like you can do anything and you know how to make transformational change and TFA is the best thing that ever happened to you….or it can leave you feeling tired, discouraged, beaten down, drained, and feeling like this whole idea of joining TFA so you could help in the fight for educational equality is just B.S. because the fight is way too big for you or even TFA. I encourage you to try to find a happy medium. I want you to feel hopeful and good about what you are doing, but I also want you to remember that this is serious and difficult work. It will not be easy. Don’t get a false sense of security, but maintain hope that you will be a good teacher and you will make a difference in the lives of your kids. Talk to someone you trust at Institute, or from home, about this. Find a happy medium. Find a place where you can be realistic, but also grounded. It might take some time, but keep searching for that place.