You Can Make A Difference
Mentor #2 with mentee OC
Date of meeting: 3/2/2018
I arrived at the school at 12:20 and learned that my first student was no longer a student there. The counselor then arranged for me to meet with my second student and I spent the day going to his classes, basically to observe. The last class, which started at 2 p.m., and for which we were scheduled to work together, was World History. Their assignment was to work on developing business models for products. This gave me a chance to engage with OC, who is “on board” with the mentoring program. He is a real gentleman and a pleasure to work with. I was able to ask questions and give positive feedback on his project, but basically still just observed what he and his two other partners on this project were doing.
I felt the day was successful and I gained some insight on how the classes operate, at least the ones I saw. The structure is pretty loose which is probably conducive to the students being as creative as they can.
The counselor said she hopes to pair me with another student who needs help with English class.
I look forward to working with both of these students.
Date of meeting: 3/9/2018
This week was again one that didn’t include engaging directly with OC, as the students were presenting their business plans that were in progress last week. OC seemed happy to see me there as part of the audience for their presentations. I participated in written feedback of the various groups, and we asked questions, in the fashion of TV’s “Shark Tank,” which was fun.
I appreciated all of the students’ altruistic spirit, as they all emphasized giving back to the community, helping those in need, and they were all “cooperative” businesses, not as focused on profit as in being of service to others. The teacher had a retired counselor sit in on the class (as one of the “Shark Tank” executives), and the prize was $50,000 (theoretically), but there were no winners or losers in this classroom game, just the idea of a prize and allowing the students to tell how they would use the money if they won it.
Date of meeting: 4/13/2018
OC wasn’t there, but the teacher said I could stay and work with any student that may need help. The class was in a state of chaos, with most students on their cell phones, verbally and sometimes physically interacting with each other, coming in and out of the classroom and basically not listening to the teacher. I had no chance to interact with any of the students, but just observed what was going on. It was frustrating and disheartening.
Eventually a few students answered questions about what they had learned about the Haitian Revolution. It was heartening to see a few students seeming to care about learning something, but in general, apathy reigns.
Date of meeting: 4/20/2018
Nothing to report, as OC isn’t coming to this class on Fridays for the time being, since he’s at “baseball practice” per the teacher. I did stay for the class to “help other students as needed,” but the students basically ignore me, so there was no help given. They are consumed with their cell phones and although they get threatened with having them confiscated, they ignore their teacher as well and just do whatever they want to do, for the most part, with the exception of a few students who seem to be paying attention to the classroom teaching activity, however disrupted and sporadic it turns out to be, although the teacher soldiers on in spite of the chaos. Really frustrating for me to watch this.
The teacher and I agreed that I could come on Tuesdays instead to work with the student, but I can’t go on the first Tuesday of the month during the school year, due to another volunteer commitment.
Hopefully, I will have an additional student to work with on Tuesdays, but so far, no word from the counselor about it.
Date of meeting: 4/24/2018
Today started out similar to previous days, and OC wasn’t in class, but again, the teacher suggested I stay and work with other students, if possible. I did stay, of course, as I’m learning much by observing the class. It’s subtle, but while it seems like the students aren’t paying attention, many of them are, and today, it looked like most of them were engaged, even though their constant interaction with each other is so different from what one would expect to occur in a classroom, somehow it works for them, in that they coordinated the project they were working on (i.e. debating two options that the Haitians had after the revolution) and presented their positions well. I was happy to see this.
I had a chance to connect with the counselor about adding another student, so hopefully that will happen soon. I told her that OC and I haven’t been meeting for the last few weeks, but she did mention that his grades are improving. I can’t take the credit for it, but I’m happy to hear that!
The only Tuesday I’m not available is the first one of the month, so I wasn’t there yesterday. I had mentioned this to the counselor and to Mr. D, and they were okay with it. I’ll be there next Tuesday.
Date of Meeting: 5/8 and 5/11/2018
I will be mentoring both on Tuesdays (except the first one of the month) and Fridays till the end of the school year, as OC is finished with sports practice and Mr. D thought my presence was helping. This gave me a morale boost, but still, the work is challenging. I asked Mr. D if the students’ phones could be collected at the start of class so they wouldn’t be on them during class and he said it’s “not that simple,” so I guess every school is different. They weren’t allowed to do this at Fremont, as I recall. On both days, we worked on preparing for the HWT (a history test that comes at the end of the year). The subject on both days related to white supremacy and civil rights struggles in world history, including WWII. The students watched the videos (when they weren’t on their phones) and a discussion followed. I coached OC, who prefers to use the computer for answering questions. I personally don’t like the idea of “auto-correcting” spelling, as I think this prevents the students from learning how to spell, but I guess that train left the station and we’re not going back to the way it was anytime soon. On Tuesday, one of the students mentioned the problem of low income residents being forced out of Oakland due to the proposed change in Section 8 housing and the rents and housing costs being so high. This gave me an opportunity to mention the importance of education to get a good job to be able to afford to live where they choose. Still frustrating to watch how disrespectful some of the students are, but I’m glad to be working with a student who shows total respect for the teacher and me. :)
Date of Meeting: 5/15 and 5/18/2018
There was nothing to report, as OC wasn’t present on either day. On 5/15, I didn’t do much except observe the class, and Mr. D thought it would be fine to stay and help anyone else who might want it, which didn’t happen.
I did have a conversation with one of the students who had earlier brought up the subject of “Section 8 housing being reduced and black people being forced out of Oakland,” that she should encourage those she knows who are of voting age to sign petitions that circulate and vote for any laws that could counter that from happening. She seemed interested and grateful to hear that. On the 18th, Mr. D was also not present, and so I didn’t stay for the duration.
Date of meeting: October 25, 2018
What a difference it makes to be in the classroom at 8:30 am on a Thursday compared with Friday at 2:30 (last period). I’m assuming this is what dictated the difference (the time and day), but it was calm and the students were engaged and paying attention and doing the work. My student, “EU” (which is her nickname), seemed happy to receive my help in answering the questions on the assignment. She did the work in printed, very neat longhand rather than on the computer, which is, thankfully, acceptable. I told her that’s how we always did it, before computers, and as long as the teacher accepts it, it’s certainly a good way to get her answers down on paper.
Another student, who was sitting on the other side of me, asked for some help, and this seemed to be productive too.
I look forward to continue in this class with receptive students.
Date of Meeting: 11/1/18
My student is doing well, sometimes needing a little prodding to stay “on task,” and she is open to my input when I read what she’s written and make suggestions to her. The class in general seems engaged, studying the reality of Columbus’ invasion (as opposed to discovery) of the Americas, getting away from the Eurocentric interpretation of history.
Date of Meeting: 11/8/18
Again, EU is doing the work as required, but she misunderstood the definition (i.e. of “colonialism”) when completing the assignment, and she made the correction gladly, providing the correct answer to the question (i.e. the “pros” and “cons” of colonialism in Haiti after the revolution).
When a charismatic male student joined the group (which consisted of four students with desks facing each other), he immediately became the focus of attention, distracting the girls to the point where all work by them stopped, as they seemed to be more interested in him than the assignment.
I wonder if this desk arrangement is the most productive, but it’s not my place to suggest it, as I’m sure Mr. D has a reason for positioning them like this.
Date of Meeting: 11/15/18
I didn’t really have direct interaction with EU today, as the class was graced with a gentleman from Haiti who spoke about the revolution and what is going on now in Haiti. It was interesting, and the students presented their projects about the
Haitian revolution (the pros and cons of colonialism) and had a discussion amongst themselves, per the assignment, arguing those pros and cons (“Options 1 and 2” of working with the French (Option 1), post revolution, and being completely independent of them (Option 2).
Date of Meeting: 11/29/18
Today started off with EU not seeming interested in doing anything but sleeping, on and off throughout the period. I tried to rouse her, but this wasn’t successful, so I ended up helping another student (per Mr. D’s suggestion), by the name of XXX. She was also not too responsive at first, but she did let me assist her with answering the questions assigned. Her handwriting is pretty much illegible, so I suggested she work on that. We are studying the Industrial Revolution, and the class, in general, seems not to be particularly engaged in this subject.
Finally, EU woke up and did a good job on part of the assignment, but the answers were incomplete, so I suggested that she expand on those answers. She was okay with that.
Date of Meeting: 12/06/18
Working with EU was more productive today, using the computer (Chrome book) studying the Industrial Revolution. She answered all of the questions with my assistance and continues to be receptive of that.
At first she was sleepy, with her head on the desk. I asked her if she was getting enough sleep at night or was it because it’s first period (8:30). She confided that she didn’t like Mr. D’s class, and that he doesn’t let people go to the bathroom when they need to. She said, “I’m too old to be peeing on myself.” I’m wondering if someone should address this with him, but I assume that he has had the experience of students saying they have to go to the bathroom in order to get out of class. In the case of the females, I would hope that he would be more understanding of their particular needs.
I also had some words with a male student who frequently distracts the girls who are at the desks, which are arranged facing each other. He tends to take turns distracting other students around the classroom. I asked him why he wasn’t doing the assignment and he said he didn’t care about it, and I said that that was his decision, but he’s interfering with the progress of the other students.
Date of Meeting: 12/13/18
EU seems to be interested in completing the assignment, with occasional prodding from me. I had to correct some of her punctuation and grammar, but I have observed that the computer seems to slow her down, that she often has to go back and correct her typing. I gave her a notebook and told her that it might be easier to write out her answers in longhand and transcribe it onto the computer. One of the problems today was the music, students listening on their earbuds, but still it was loud enough to distract her, she complained, so I asked the students to please turn their music off. They complied without complaint. They’re not supposed to be listening to music anyway, but they’re also not supposed to do most of the things they do in class (i.e. coming to class late, wearing hoodies and caps, using their cell phones, throwing items at each other, dropping food in their computers, walking out of class without permission, using profanity throughout the period, socializing instead of doing the work, napping, not listening to the announcement over the loudspeaker, and on and on it goes). How anyone can get any work done in this class is a miracle.
EU does understand and can express the concepts of the Industrial Revolution, but I think that the distraction is a big problem. I can relate to this, as being a highly sensitive person too, I know it’s hard to focus when there is so much ambient noise in the classroom, and also from a leaf blower that was very loud outside. It might be helpful to the students to hold off on this leaf blowing during class time. Fortunately, the biggest distractor (YYY) wasn’t there this day. :)
Date of Meeting: 01/10/19
EU was absent today, but I stayed to work with XXX and another student (“ZZZ” - don’t know his last name) who sometimes asks for help from me.
Not much to report, but it was hopefully productive for the students I worked with. Mainly it seems like I was keeping them on track to finish the assignment.
Date of Meeting: 01/17/19
Mr. D showed part of the movie “Black Panther,” and the assignment was to write about what Africa might be like if colonialism had never happened there, (i.e. would technology have advanced like in other areas of the world?).
Nothing to report, as EU came in late and turned in her response before I could see it. I did have a chance to ask how she did on the test before the winter break, and she said “okay.”
I missed last Thursday. That was my first absence, as my cold happened during the winter break. I thought I was relapsing when I woke up last week, but fortunately it didn’t develop into anything!
My lungs are chronically impacted with something called “bronchiectasis” (google if you need more info), which was diagnosed 12 yrs. ago after a terrible pneumonia that caused it. It sets me up for lung infection. Unfortunately, it’s not curable. I’m feeling okay now and intend on being at school this Thursday.
Date of Meeting: 01/31/19
What a wonderful day today was, nothing short of thrilling. EU was very responsive, showing me her work, seemingly proud of her answers on the assignment. She also raised her hand to give an answer to a question, which I hadn’t seen her do before. Then, to my delighted surprise, she got up to help two other students with the assignment, to bring them up to speed, as they had come into class late. While she did this, I read her answers on the Chrome book, and we passed each other while we returned to our respective seats, and shared a chuckle and smile (our first) when I said, “Musical chairs.” Things are looking up!
Date of Meeting: 02/07/19
EU was absent today, but I had a chance to work with ZZZ again, who usually comes in late to class. He often asks for my assistance, which is heartening. I encouraged him to answer a question Mr. D posed about a specific Black History assignment, (regarding Mohammed Ali’s refusal to go to war in Vietnam and jeopardizing his boxing career) and he did a great job with that.
Date of Meeting: 02/14/19
Today was another wonderful experience at McClymonds. EU was present and doing a great job with all of the assignments. It was a bit of a love-fest, being Valentine’s Day, and I continue to enjoy seeing how the students interact so positively with each other, encouraging each other, and always being quite sweet with each other. I even got a big hug from EU. I was also able to help a couple of other students who came in late, so that they could catch up with the assignments, one which required using their Chrome books and another requiring handwritten answers.
Mentor #2 with mentee EU
We ask all our mentors to submit a weekly mentoring report to track the progress of their mentee(s). Here are excerpts from a few of those reports.
All names have been anonymized and assigned to a number (i.e. Mentor #1) or random two letter initials.