Teach For America: Institute Week 1

The Powerhouse Theatre

This has been a pretty intense week. We’re up very early every day, we eat a little breakfast, sip some coffee and then board busses to our school sites. I’ve been teamed with Fiona, Katie, and Jake — three incredibly bright and passionate young people who are helping me adapt to the rigor of being a teacher. It’s been really exciting. Our advisor (CMA in TFA acronym jargon), Richard, and our Curriculum Specialist (CS), Rachel, are driving us hard towards our goal: to leave Institute with a comfortable grasp of what it takes to be an excellent classroom leader. If I can learn and internalize half of the strategies they’re teaching we’ll be well prepared.

I took the day off yesterday to give the lessons of last week a chance to stew, and hopped on the Big Blue Bus with Katie (one of my collab team members) and headed over to Santa Monica for some relaxation. Wow — Santa Monica has changed. The once humble downtown and pier have turned into a commercial mecca. I spent a little time on the bluffs overlooking the beach and then decided to walk back to the Loyola Marymount Campus. I realized I would be close to the space where Anna and I and a whole crowd of friends from ACT started a theatre company in the early 1980s, so I plugged the location into the Google Maps app on my phone and decided to set my route so I could walk past the Powerhouse Theatre. That’s the original site of the Pacific Theatre Ensemble (PTE), which has now been renamed Pacific Resident Theatre.

It was fun to see the old theatre — the lot surrounding the building has shrunk since we were in residence there, but the fa├žade was immediately recognizable. We put on a west coast premiere of James McClure’s Thanksgiving and a production of Bertholt Brecht and Kurt Weill’s The Happy End in this space in 1985. The theatre company has become a respected co-operative and fixture in the LA theatre landscape. While I take no credit for what it’s become, I am proud that it still thriving 25 years after we first germinated the seed.

My walk back to campus also took me past a great little coffee place, Groundwork Coffee on Rose in Venice. They serve an array of blends each day and the place is refreshingly earthy and unpretentious. I sat outside and sipped a cup of their Venice blend before continuing my trek. I hit the Whole Foods at Rose and Lincoln to pick up a few avocados and some nuts to snack on in my dorm room, then headed down Lincoln towards the campus. I got to the section of the road just south of Marina Del Rey, where Lincoln crosses Ballona Creek, and realized there were no sidewalks for the next mile of roadway. COME ON LOS ANGELESGET WITH THE PROGRAM! So I waited for the Big Blue Bus to spend 75 cents and cut my walk short.

It’s been a great week. Take a peek at the pictures of my new compadres and keep us in your thoughts. We have four more weeks to go.

Fiona (Katie in foreground)Katie and FionaJake catching some ZZZsDecorating our classroomJake and FionaWe're learning about planning lessons

Sunday July 4, 2010 — Mark —