A Day in the Life of a BTH Teacher

 

Week One

By: Jasmine Rangel, 8th Grade Chemistry

 

This is my third ever “week one” and I think that I maybe finally have a hold of things. As a returning teacher, I’ve been enjoying week one as I begin to fall in love once again with all the wonderful quirks of Breakthrough and learn all of the new changes. I’ve really appreciated seeing the rising 9th graders and seeing the progress they’ve made as leaders. I love seeing them be engaged at Breakthrough and taking on the responsibility of teaching the 7th graders the ropes.

One of my favorite parts about Breakthrough is that we include a different character trait every day of the program. This is what I believe makes Breakthrough so different from many other teaching programs. As teachers we are more than just instructors in a classroom, we are able to teach students beyond what is necessary academically. Breakthrough not only cares about academics, but also about the individual growth of each of its students as productive members of their communities. It is for this reason that I continue to come back to Breakthrough year after year. I share many of the same backgrounds as many of the students Breakthrough has and I understand how meaningful it is for a kid to interact with people who truly want them to succeed and encourage them to be active leaders.

 

 

 

Week Two

By: Candice Love, 8th Grade Writing

 

This is my second summer at Breakthrough, because last summer I hated the feeling of saying goodbye to my students knowing that I would soon be a student again at my university. There was something about the teachers maintaining high energy from the moment the first student got to school in the morning until the last student left at the end of the day. As a writing teacher, I also got the unique advantage of getting to learn more about who my students were through their writing. I was so fortunate to get to work with many students who came from many different backgrounds and had many unique stories.

There are some things that are simpler about being a returning teacher. You don’t have to iron out the same kinks that new teachers do, such as how to write and deliver a lesson. You are given the same curriculum with different students. So in this way, you have a head start. However, being a returner can be challenging in its own way. This summer, I have had to take on more leadership responsibility, and become a resource for others in my department. Now that I don’t have to worry as much about what I am saying in a lesson, I can work on a lot more of the smaller details that make lessons great, such as adding more of my personality into a lesson or thinking of more creative ways to get students to understand a concept.

Even though this is my second summer teaching the same curriculum, it doesn’t seem to get old. There is so much to learn about being a teacher, and though people look up to me because I have experience, the truth is there is still a lot for me to learn. If Malcolm Gladwell’s rule is true, and I need to have ten thousand hours of practice before I master teaching, by the end of the summer I still probably will not have reached the 5% mark. With this in mind, a second chance at a curriculum is exciting for me, since I can now constantly ask myself how I can improve.

There also seems to be a bigger sense of urgency in this summer. Since I will be graduating in the spring and will need to find a full time teaching position, this is likely my last summer at Breakthrough Houston. This time around, I am learning not to take any of my experiences for granted. As a new teacher, Orientation week was exhausting, filled with information overloads and nerves about my first time getting in front of students. But this summer I loved Orientation week, because I now understand its importance in developing the relationships that I will have with the other teachers over the summer. Yes, the Houston heat can be a lot to handle in the middle of July, but I embrace the morning bridge and sending students off in the afternoons, because I have seen firsthand through teary eyes at celebration just how much our commitment to this program means to the students. Waking up before the sun no longer bothers me, because I know that through any potential struggles, I can do a lot to make sure that all of my students have a great day and leave this summer feeling confident and supported in their next year of school.

Last summer after Breakthrough I learned that I never wanted to leave the classroom. And this summer I am learning to appreciate and sweat the little things.

 

Week Three

By: Yadi Quintanilla, Elective and Activity Teacher, Office Worker

 

When I think about Breakthrough Houston, I think commitment. I have been a part of the Breakthrough Houston Program since seventh grade. I started out as a student in the middle school program, and continued in Breakthrough Houston’s College Bound program through high school. Now, I am an office worker, as well as elective and activity teacher for the program.

My typical day at Breakthrough begins by making coffee in the morning to welcoming the students in the breakfast step, or by cheering for them while getting off the bus, helping students in the reading room pick out yet another book to read and enjoy, taking attendance, recording Breakthrough Bucks, answering phones call, teaching creative media, leading Family time, and activities follow. There are many reasons why I love doing each of these tasks, but my most favorite part of the day is afternoon ASM. This is the last few minutes of our day together. All families unite. All families give kudos to one another. All families sing the teapot song. All families cheer. All families say goodbye and wait for another energetic summer day at Breakthrough Houston.

I do not love this part of the day because it is time to go. I wait for this part of the day because at the end of each long day at Breakthrough, students’ heads are held higher, cheers become louder, and character traits continue to manifest. This is rare for a student to experience during the summer, but this is what makes Breakthrough Houston so unique.

Many Breakthrough Houston students may confirm that the tasks of a student and teachers are very different, as I have now been able to experience, but the hard work, determination, and fun will always be experienced by both. The commitment is not a struggle, but an honor that will stick with me through the skills and memories I have acquired. I am excited to see and be a part of the growth in these students and explore the Breakthrough journey in a different perspective. I love that Breakthrough is more than just leading students towards academic excellence. It is about commitment, community, purpose, challenge, fun, and much more. When I think about Breakthrough, I think, “Gooooo Breakthrough!”

 

 

 

Week Four

By: Grace Huang, 8th grade ELA TA

 

I’m a teacher assistant with the eighth grade literature and writing department, and this is my first summer at Breakthrough. The weeks have flown by, as it’s already the end of week four! Although it’s only been a month, the excitement and adventures are endless. From camping in Huntsville to applying the quadratic formula, each week holds a new experience for both students and teachers alike.

I can genuinely say that my favorite part of Breakthrough is the students.  From the moment they step off the bus each day, they exude an immeasurable amount of energy and a strong passion for learning. It amazes me all the time to see just how much they care about everybody within the Breakthrough community.  Inside the classroom, they encourage each other, working together to reach conclusions and explore unfamiliar ideas. On many occasions, I’ve witnessed students reach out to their peers, helping each other work through more challenging topics.  During one eighth grade literature class, students were participating in a Socratic seminar-style discussion involving the book at hand.  The class consisted of a mix of both outspoken and quieter students, and I was unsure of how the discussion would play out.  They held and facilitated the discussion on their own, including and encouraging everyone by asking insightful questions and cheering each other on.  It was amazing to see each one of them leave the class with a better, more refined understanding of the book along with a greater sense of friendship with each other.  Outside the classroom, they are constantly seeking to connect and support each other as returning eighth and ninth graders rush over to the seventh graders, eager to learn their names and introduce themselves.

The students play a tremendous part in the things that make this community so wonderful.  They clap for one another, offer each other gratitude and kindness, never failing to bend down and help others when they’ve dropped something or to walk over and remind somebody of how much they care for them.  And even though I’ve only been a part of this community for a month, I am sure that the Breakthrough community is truly its own type of family.

 

 

 

Week Five

By: Hellen Wainaina, 8th Grade Literature Teaching Fellow

 

To me, dawns are precious. It follows then that day break is my favorite time of day, and at Breakthrough, mornings a unique experience. They start with the sound of gates clinking, copiers running, and teacher voices ringing in the faculty room. Slowly the aroma of fresh coffee with the undertone of glazed donuts permeate the hallways. The buzz of conversations echoes in the hallways, staplers’ click-click, and the noise crescendos to a fortissimo. Then, 7:40AM strikes, and like a well-rehearsed orchestra, there’s subito piano. Silence. “Shabooya”, the meeting leader sings. The faculty meeting begins, and another day officially begins.

The excitement builds as teachers are dispatched to Morning Bridge to greet the students and Breakfast Step to help them start their day well. The morning continues to unravel, seconds into minutes, and much like in the faculty room chatter echoes and laughter rings in the dining hall as kids congregate at their tables. Gradually, teachers join students at the tables after morning duties, and the all school meeting begins. Around this time, I find myself sitting with my students, excitement rushing through me as I wait in anticipation for the Vision. The word of the day is announced, then used in a sentence. And the ASM leader speaks, “Now, can we have the Vision from ___.”

Vision. Finally, we have arrived. It is written that where there’s no vision, there’s no restraint. So, I sit still, attention focused on the day’s speaker. Each day the teaching fellow takes the word of the day and illuminates its meaning, its manifestation in their past, their daily lives, and present a perspective for the day, a perspective on how to look and live out the word of the day. The challenge for the students and teachers as they go through their Breakthrough day is to exemplify the characteristic presented and strengthen the trait. Vision is like having a TedTalk every morning. It gives teachers the opportunity to speak on a character trait that pertains to the program but one that is unique to their experience. It helps student connect to the teachers and allows for generational communication and the facilitation of experiential wisdom.

As the last words of the vision echo in the minds of students and teachers, cheer masters disperse among the tables of students. A cheer begins, ends, and dismissal to advisory follows. Thus, the Breakthrough day is inaugurated, a new tune to be uncovered, a familiar melody to be improved and augmented with new pluses.

 

 

 

Week Six

By: JT Su, 9th Grade Literature Teaching Fellow

Watching something you love come to an end is never easy, and saying goodbye to all of our students at the end of the summer was no different.

Celebration was the final event of our summer at Breakthrough. Celebration is an annual performance put together by students and teachers showcasing highlights of what our students accomplished over the summer. It is a chance for us to put our students in front of the entire community so they can radiate their enthusiasm and motivation of learning from performing pieces of Spoken Word they wrote in Creative Writing to singing songs they learned in Chinese to playing instruments they learned.

With Celebration behind us, it is difficult to think that our six week program has come to an end. It will be hard to think of school without the presence of our eager kids running through our Morning Bridge or coming through our Breakfast Step. It will be hard to not start off our day with “Shabooya Roll Call,” or an inspiring teacher vision. It will be hard to end our days without first doing a cheer or hearing students sing the Teapot song if they lost anything during the day. Most of all, it will be hard to be separated from the close relationships and friendships we have developed with our students. However, this ending is bittersweet. Celebration is not an ending to what we have accomplished this summer, but rather, it is a beginning for everything that lies ahead.

Our students are going to go back to their schools with all of the character traits they have learned to embody this summer in our Breakthrough community. They will go back to their schools with the motivation for learning that they have shown this summer in their classes. And lastly, they will go back to their schools knowing that they have a huge support network of close friends, and dedicated teachers who they have created many memories with, who will always be standing behind them to support them in their academic and personal journeys.

We as teachers have learned the importance of dedication that we will take with us for the rest our lives. This summer, our job started when students entered our classrooms and started again when our students left at the end of the day. I have never wholly dedicated all of myself to something I care about so much that I even dreamt of my students every night. We as teachers have learned the importance of putting our all into something we truly care about, whatever it may be.

While Celebration may represent the end of a long and beautiful journey, it is just the beginning of the rest of our lives as learners and leaders.

Why was this summer the best summer of my life? Because it was a Breakthrough summer. We are Breakthrough. And we commit ourselves to hard work, dedication, respect, fun, and above all, excellence in learning. Goooooo Breakthrough!

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