2006 PFIG Recipient Isabelle Brantley
College of Arts & Sciences
American Studies Major
2007 Graduation Year
Internship: East Harlem School
Notes on the first week
I just finished a very challenging and exciting first week at The East Harlem School. I have been watching Humanities classes in order to get ready to teach the summer session, tutoring individual students, and helping out with various other projects. Teaching seems incredibly difficult. I have been in charge of a few classes when teachers have had doctor’s appointments or other engagements. Its been challenging to figure out if I am getting my point across in a constructive and stimulating manner. I have also been working with the eighth graders on their capstone research projects that deal with the state of children around the world. Their research is incredibly interesting and very impressive and I have enjoyed learning about their specific topics.
The most challenging aspect of my internship so far has been serving as an authority figure. Since I am both new to the school and a younger person, I have had to really work to strike the right tone. The students on the whole have been extremely helpful in acclimating me to The East Harlem School and its principles.
Last Thursday evening I went with another teacher and a group of seventh and eighth graders on Youth Service Opportunities Program. We cooked a meal and ate dinner with a group of homeless men before spending the night in the shelter. The next day we worked in a soup kitchen in the Bronx helping to bus tables and prepare the food. It was an eye opening experience for me, having never been to the Bronx nor worked with the hungry or homeless ever before. It also gave me an opportunity to get to know several of the students at EHS in a more informal setting. The compassion and enthusiasm for the project illustrated by our group of middle schoolers moved me. I really admire The East Harlem School’s values, specifically the commitment to community and the emphasis on developing social consciousness.
This next week students will be working on final projects. I will be very involved with helping them as well as learning as much as I possibly can before the summer session begins and I start teaching my own classes. I have really enjoyed my work at The East Harlem School thus far and I am looking forward to learning more about the art of teaching and getting to know the students on a deeper level.
Summer session has begun at the East Harlem School. I have been working hard to come up with successful lesson plans for sixth and seventh grade Humanities students. This summer we are studying the Holocaust and reading Anne Frank’s Diary. Tackling such an emotionally as well as intellectually difficult topic has been a real challenge, but the students have approached the summer with the seriousness of purpose the topic deserves. On my end lesson planning has proven more of a challenge than I originally expected. I have learned the importance of selecting material appropriate for middle schoolers, not trying to cover more than is humanly possible in an hour and a half, and how to structure time so that students remain engaged.
The East Harlem School is an incredible place. Each day I am more impressed by the school’s mission to instill awareness of others and compassion for one’s fellow human beings in its students. I remember my high school history teacher concluding his lecture on the Holocaust with the thought that education of the mind without education of the heart is at best useless and at worst monstrous. It seems that educational thought at EHS resonates with this understanding through striving to develop incredibly compassionate and careful individuals who are inspiring to be around. Looking back over that last statement I realize how cheesy it sounds, but it really is an inspiring place full of remarkable teachers and students.
This week I worked with another teacher to plan whole school time. It was daunting to try and speak in front of all the students, but our lesson on memory and the Holocaust turned out very successfully. The students all worked together to make a Holocaust memorial that included very thoughtful drawings. The picture of the world with a hole in it for the missing 6 million Jews killed in the Holocaust moved me in particular. Another student drew a picture of Irving Roth, the survivor who visited us this week, surrounded by the words “courageous,rdquo; “resilient,rdquo; and “brave.rdquo; Teaching at the East Harlem School has been an incredibly rewarding, challenging, and just generally thought provoking experience and I am excited to see what the rest of the summer will bring.
My time at the East Harlem School has come to an end. The students finished the summer session by giving final presentations on point of view in Anne Frank’s Diary and dignity and resilience in the Holocaust. They did very well and truly supported one another. It was exciting to see how much more confident the new students were at the end of the summer than when they first arrived scared and confused several weeks ago. I then had the very interesting task of writing report cards and providing parents with their students’ strengths and weaknesses in order to prepare them for the up coming school year. I was reminded of a friend’s comment on how quickly we seem to move from students to teachers, and then in my case back again in a week and a half.
Teaching at the East Harlem School has been an invaluable experience. Not only have I been able to work with very talented educators to learn the basics of lesson planning, but my time at EHS has furthermore exposed me to specific concerns in urban education, one educator’s interpretation of current needs, and finally a unique approach to addressing inequalities in our society at large. I was also able to meet teachers who had gone through Teach for America or New York Teaching Fellows who were more than willing to share their experiences. In short, it was a very rewarding crash course in the kind of education I would want to be involved in and the challenges and rewards that such a vocation might provide. I am very grateful to have had this experience and to have received the insight it has given me as I return to being a student for my last year at U.Va.