Over the summer, I am volunteering at the TEAK Fellowship. This program, in New York City, selects low-income students who do well in school and prepares them for independent day and boarding high schools through rigorous classes during the school year and summer. As a member of the peer advisory team, I work with nine students who are entering the seventh and eighth grade.
During the summer intensive, the students take classes (math, science, history, and English) with high school teachers and they get the same amount of homework that an average student in high school may receive. In order to encourage the students to enjoy themselves, the peer advisors plan fun morning meetings. Today the students played trivia. We tested them on politics, pop culture, history, science, and current events. Then some of the students participated in a challenge called one-minute speeches. A student must pick a random word such as “love” or “integrity” and talk about that word for one minute without using filler words or taking long pauses. Through this practice, they learn how to publicly articulate their thoughts, speak with conviction, and become conscious of their use of filler words.
At 9:00 the kids began their first class of the day. During this time, I observed the grades that my advisees received on quizzes, homework assignments, and essays to track their academic progress. Then I reviewed the comments that teachers wrote about the behavior and participation of my advisees during class. One of my advisees was not doing well in her science class. I spoke to her science teacher during lunch. She noted that my advisee was quiet and did not understand some of the material. I met with my advisee about this and we decided to set up a meeting with her science teacher so that she can review the topics that confuse her. Asking for help from a teacher is a skill that my advisee is practicing during.
Lunch time at the TEAK Fellowship is an opportunity for the TEAK fellows to engage in physical activities such as basketball, soccer, and volleyball. I enjoyed watching the students have a good time while running after the soccer ball. After lunch, the kids attended afternoon classes and study hall. I checked in with one of my advisees named El. He was performing well in his classes and teachers said that he constantly showed his citizenship to the community by doing good deeds. On the surface, El was well-adjusted to the summer. However, when I met with him, he opened up about his procrastination habits. He was not getting a decent amount of sleep because did not do his lengthy homework before he watched television. We created a schedule that would allow him to finish his homework first and go to sleep at a reasonable time. Then he made a goal to start using his planner so that he can manage his time more efficiently. Although I am confident that students like El will succeed in high school, it is important that they begin developing sustainable habits to maintain their mental and physical health.
I hope that I can continue to help these students during this time of growth.