Archive for June, 2011

June 25, 2011

Yes, I’m alive.

As you can see from the title, I haven’t completely fallen off the face of the Earth.  I’m teetering on the edge occasionally, but I’ve managed to stay grounded her at the Phoenix Institute thanks to a really good group of friends.  Brianna, Natalie, Victoria, Dante, Chelsea, Angela, Katie…and several others, you guys have all helped me find sanity these past couple weeks, and for that I am grateful : )

For those of you who have not experienced Teach For America Institute training, just FYI, IT’S HARD.  My typical schedule last week looked like this:

5:45 AM- Wake up, get ready to go, pack up all the materials I will need for class.

6:30 AM- Get in the “Pack Your Lunch Line” and then go to Breakfast.

7:00 AM- Bus ride to the school I’m teaching at.

7:30 AM- Get classroom ready, sign-in, turn in final copies of lesson plans, meet with my Faculty Advisor, report to morning duty, etc.  These tasks vary depending on the day of the week.

8:30 AM- Class begins. Spend first hour teaching procedures or testing students for diagnostic data.

9:30 AM- Report to info session about a teaching topic.

11:00 AM- Free time to enter in student data and prepare for lessons (so not really free time…).

11:30 AM- Teaching block begins, including an hour of support teaching, taking the kids to lunch, and then an hour of lead teaching (this week’s subject: Math!).

2:00 PM- Report to 2, hour and a half info sessions on more teaching topics.

5:10 PM- All school meeting including short reflections and logistic info.

5:30 PM- Bus ride back to Arizona State University.

6:00 PM- Dinner at the dining hall.

6:30 PM- Shower and pack up bag to work on lessons in the computer lab.

7:15 PM- Arrive at computer lab to write and revise lesson plans, make and print worksheets, try to stay awake, etc.

11:30 PM- Leave computer lab to go back to dorm.

12:00 PM- Sleep.


Having this typical schedule has been rough.  Especially trying to get through a day this packed on only about 5-6 hours of sleep.  But as I said, having some good friends helps.  We vent, we go on mini-food outings (frozen yogurt- yes please!), and see who can look more zombie-ish during late night lesson plans.

You know what else helps?  The kids I’m actually teaching.  I LOVE being in the classroom.  I was a bit afraid my students would dislike me because I’m more of a hard ass than my fellow teachers, but just as my advisor said would happen, my kids love me for my own style, too.  I think I’m pretty good at designing lessons to keep students engaged, and I’m also good at keeping the class in line (though our class consequence system needs some work).  I already know I’m going to miss these kids a lot when we leave Phoenix.  I’ve had them for math all week, and next week we switch to reading.  Should be a refreshing change, but we’ll see.

I never thought I’d say this, but my focus this week is improving my time management.  I need to get more work done on the weekends to free up my week.  As much as I need a day off, I need sleep more.  But before I dive into lessons, a big group of us are going out to see Bad Teacher.  I’m thinking it will be very therapeutic : )

For all my friends and family I haven’t talked to, I miss you like crazy.  I’m three hours behind Orlando, and that combined with my busy schedule makes it very hard to keep in touch.  If you can, please send me anything- post it note messages, letters, “Hang in There” Kitty posters…I really could use all the support I can get:

Kelly Schrumpf/Teach For America
Mailbox #2228
711 E. Lemon Street
Tempe, AZ 85281

I promise to send something back.  Maybe I can start writing letters on the bus ride home?

June 11, 2011

Setting Down Roots

Remember that last post when I was leaving for Induction for TFA?  Well that is already over.  The brief 5 days were PACKED with info sessions, reflection sessions, socials, and even a scavenger hunt.  I made some really good friends in a short time, met more people that I’m sure I will become better friends with soon, and even more people who I’m sure are awesome, but I just haven’t spoken to much yet ; )

Here are some of the main updates I have for you all:

1) I signed a lease with Memorial Creek in South Tulsa.  I ultimately decided on living alone.  I haven’t tried it before, but I really like to have time to myself.  I am in a very quiet part of the complex on the top floor.  While the top will be a pain when I move in, it will be really nice to not have loud upstairs neighbors (and I won’t freak out as much if I hear a weird noise).  You can see my floor plan below.  It’s 726 sq ft, and basically the perfect size for me.

Memorial Creek A1 Model

My Apartment at Memorial Creek

2) I bought a bed.  Leasing an apartment alone was stressful, but really nothing compared to browsing the HUGE Rooms Today showroom (no, not Rooms To Go).  I felt completely overwhelmed in choosing a bed frame, mattress, couch, table, etc.  I’ve never bought furniture before, and I have no idea what prices are reasonable and what brands are good.  I decided that I could wait on buying everything else, but it would be really nice to have a bed as soon as I get back to Tulsa.  I ultimately settled on the Crown Mark one shown below.  I love the shallow cubbyholes it has to add some decorations or just to put small decorative things in.

Kelly's Bed

My Bed: Crown Mark Queen 1400

3) I have a tentative placement at Park Elementary School.  You can view their full profile here.  I really like that it has a high Native American population because this is a minority group I have had little exposure to in Florida.  Also, the school’s test scores are pretty decent in reading, but they do struggle in math.  In case you didn’t know, I kick ass in math.  I also thought it was REALLY cool that they operate a “Micro-Society,” which is described as such:

Micro-Society is an exciting program that is only offered at two elementary schools in the Tulsa Public School District. The program is designed to teach children about the complexities of our worldwide society through the implementation of building a micro-society within our school.The students learn about and are given the opportunity to experience running a school government, establishing businesses, and providing services such as banking. They are involved in the entire process including designing their businesses, setting up bank loans to start their ventures, advertising, the interview process, production of goods, and sales.This on-going experience also includes:

  • Completing job applications
  • Interviewing
  • Budgets
  • Writing a Constitution
  • Hiring and firing of employees

Pretty cool, right?

I leave for Arizona tomorrow, with a brief overnight stay in Santa Fe.  I only have passenger, which made packing the car infinitely easier.  It will be nice to have company on this trip.  Let’s just hope I can dodge the crazy fires going on out there…

June 6, 2011

As Rafiki would say, “It is time.”

Up until now, I have tried to just focus on one step at the time.  Graduate.  Go to Russia.  Finish my internship.  Complete TFA course work.  Pack.  Drive to Alabama.  Drive to Tulsa.  Put everything in a storage unit.  Tour apartments.  But now, all I have left is to actually start with TFA.  I honestly feel like I am living someone else’s life.  I’ve become so distracted with even the simplest tasks (ex. I asked for a 3:15 movie ticket when I really wanted 11:15 and I left my thumb drive in the hotel business center, though luckily no one grabbed it in the time it took me to go looking for it) because I think part of me doesn’t believe that I’m here.  I’m not the type of person to just pack up my life and move to an unfamiliar place doing unfamiliar work.  This is insane!

Welcome to Oklahoma

Entering Oklahoma

Tomorrow I move into the Hyatt Regency for a week for induction, and then it’s a two day drive to Phoenix for five weeks of training.  I have a feeling things won’t seem permanent until I get back to Tulsa in late July.  Until then, I’m just going to keep moving forward and do my best to avoid those heart-wrenching glances back.  These next two years might be the best of my life…or maybe they’ll be the worst.  I don’t really know what’s ahead, but the best I can do is keep up a good attitude.  I’ve already survived a two day drive here (part of which was relaxing and beautiful, part of which made me feel like a pretzel and had me teaching myself to stretch while driving to keep somewhat comfortable), lifting more than my weight in stuff to put in storage, and my first experiences with apartment hunting.  The next 6 weeks should be smooth sailing then, right?

We’ll see.

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June 2, 2011

Moving On

I leave for Oklahoma in less than 48 hours. CRAZY. Most people in my situation would be focusing on packing and getting TFA reading out of the way (to be fair, I’m done reading, just haven’t finished all my follow-up writing assignments) , but of course, I got sidetracked with a special project.

Ever since I came home from Russia, I have missed Polina’s (former exchange student who I stayed with the whole time in Russia) brother, Nikita. He is only about a year and a half older than me and has already gone through a lot of the things I am going through now- moving away from home, finding a place to live by yourself, balancing a full workload, etc. Every day I wish I could talk to him about my anxiety, excitement, and fears about the big move, or just have him distract me with stupid jokes (when you can’t speak someone else’s language too well, hilarity will ensue). Unfortunately, we can just communicate enough through charades and a few words here and there in person, but written and voice communication won’t really be possible until we understand each other’s languages better.

I was sad about this for awhile after I got back from my trip. There was so much more I wanted to talk to him about, but instead it was off on a train to Moscow, and then later a plane back to Orlando. After a couple weeks of semi-moping, I decided to do something about how I felt by sending him a present. Choosing a gift was still tricky due to the language barrier, but eventually I came up with something awesome.

::Prepare for the Awesomeness::

One of the conversations I did have with Nikita in Saint Petersburg was how much he liked Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios when he had visited here in 2000. I combined that interest with our language struggle and developed an ABC book of things found around the park. For each item, I wrote down the word translated in Russian to hold up in the picture I took at the park. This way, the ABC book serves as an english tutor and a Russian/English dictionary. I had to get creative with a lot of the words (thanks to those who made suggestions for tricky letters!), and taking the pictures on Wednesday was a nightmare with the on and off again downpours. Me and Dan (my brother-in-law who took all the photos) kept running to get pictures in between storms or re-staging shots under overhangs to avoid messing up the Russian signs. It got a bit ridiculous, but once the rain let up, we were able to power through a good chunk of the remaining shots.

I put the pictures together in a scrapbook tonight, and also added some extra pages with messages in Russian, pictures from my time in Saint Petersburg, and a CD of primarily instrumental music from movies (most of the movies included I know he likes, and he really likes soundtrack music…this seemed like a good way to go given the lack of english in instrumental music). You can view a video of the completed project (including my translations) below:

I can’t tell you how proud I am of this book. It forced me to practice my Russian, let me do something nice for someone else, and also allowed me to get my feelings out creatively when I can’t rely on talking. Now that this is done, I can move on from missing Russia, the families I met there, and Nikita, and focus on what’s to come. Oklahoma? Let’s do this.