So, here’s one thing they might not mention at the beginning of freshman year…it’ll be over before you know it…and then summertime hits…and there are three open months…free for you to fill however you like. Ideally, you’ll have a summer job, or even better…an internship lined up.
Which is where my summer plans come in! This summer, I’m working as a TA (Teacher’s Assistant) for the program PAYS—Pomona College Academy for Youth Success. It’s a four week intensive program for high school students—rising sophomores, juniors, and seniors—to help them improve math, writing, and study skills. As a TA for rising sophomores, I attend their math and critical inquiry classes, help them with the assigned homework, and serve as a mentor. In addition, I’m also teaching my own class that I personally designed—I chose to do a course on Psychology, with an overview of perception, intelligence, and abnormal. So, those are the logistics of the course. But here’s the amazing part…
The kids. I wake up around 7:30 AM and work with my group until about 11 PM…Monday through Thursday. Alongside helping them with assignments and attending classes, they have free time from 6 to 10:45 PM…which for me, generally means volleyball games, soccer, or trips to the gym.
Before the program started, I was extremely nervous. Would they like me? Would I do an okay job teaching the class? What would I do when someone had a problem? What if they couldn’t relate to the other students? WHAT WOULD I DO??
So the first week flew by…and all of those issues came up. I had a few students who weren’t relating well to others. What did I do? My Co-TA (fellow staff member) and I got them outside playing soccer, made extra efforts to sit them next to new people at lunch, and we paid closer attention to their moods. The students in my class seemed nervous and unable to engage in discussion. What did I do? I asked them to do Icebreakers and diagrams until everyone was laughing. Did the kids like me? Well…I’m not sure about that one, but they do invite me to sit with them at lunch, and join their volleyball games…so I’ll take that as a good sign.
Friday night, after the kids went home for the weekend, I was in my bed, exhausted…thinking about the past week. I started to cry…not a small trickle of tears…not a little gulp…a complete sobbing break down. It wasn’t due to my state of extreme fatigue…it wasn’t that I was upset because the apple juice that I wanted was downstairs in the lounge…it was something else entirely. I realized that for the first time in a long time, I was completely happy and at peace with where I was. Traveling between Arkansas and California has had its up and downs…I often feel as though I’m torn between two worlds…no matter where I am—there’s always somewhere else that holds my heart…and that’s been very difficult to handle. Even with so many places to call “home” this past year, I’ve sometimes felt lost, confused, and alone…as some of you may next year during the college transition.
So much has been brought from within me after only one week in the program. The kids. The staff. The work. The play. The people. In case you were wondering, the tears were of joy and fulfillment. So…in conclusion, this summer…I’m a TA for the PAYS Program. This summer, as a TA for this program, I’m doing my best to give the kids a great experience and perhaps a little guidance. This summer, I’ve found my way home.