By Thursday afternoon I had come to a solid conclusion as to what this Institute experience is all about. I also came to understand why they call us "Corps Members." This is teacher boot camp and they are trying to break us. I'm not sure how to explain it all but imagine working at 100 MPH from the time you wake up at 5:30 until you go to bed around 1:30. Mixed in there are surprise assignments the staff throws on us (i.e. complex student assessments and the data entry that it entails) and instable working conditions (i.e. we had to move our classroom at the end of week, thanks to a labor dispute with LA's custodial staff). I did much better than my roommate, who averaged about 3 1/2 hours of sleep during the week. People are walking zombies, propped up by caffeine and the type of work-ethic that made them one of the 10% of applicants actually chosen to be a Corps Member. Of course, we're also fighting the physiological battles to stay focused and productive in the midst of sleep-deprivation and chaotic conditions. Toward the end of the week, there were groups of ladies on campus breaking down and crying. And guys venting to other guys with some colorful language.
I'm pretty sure this was all planned, too. Rumors get spread between current Corps Members based upon what they've heard from Alumni. The general consensus is that 1) Institute is the hardest part of the TFA two year experience 2) They are trying to weed out those who can't cut it 3) We are being violently taught the necessary skills of time-management and multi-tasking and 4) We are being taught the flexibility necessary to lead student achievement while working with school districts that are incredibly dysfunctional. As the leader of our summer school site keeps saying whenever some new curve is thrown our way, "if the people leading the educational system in our country made their decisions by asking 'what is best for the kids?', TFA wouldn't need to exist." That is very well said.
But I survived the first week of teaching. Today is Saturday and I'm going to take some Sabbath rest before putting in another long day tomorrow.