The End of Induction, Beginning of Institute.
I feel like I’ve spent a lot of my time the past few months just waiting. Since I found out about my acceptance to the Corps in January, I’ve been waiting for this summer. I spent a week in a car waiting to arrive in Tulsa. The past two days, I’ve spent waiting in line, first for room assignment, then for registration materials (I’m still waiting for my roommate to arrive). And now, the waiting is over- Bootcamp Institute begins bright and early tomorrow morning.
The last few days of Induction have been, by and large, the most useful of the whole Induction process. Our Induction process began in Oklahoma City, but on Thursday morning, us Tulsa Corps members packed all our belongings into cars and made the trek up to Tulsa. We spent the afternoon exploring the community- visiting Reconciliation Park and the Gilcrease Community Center to learn more about the Race Riots of 1921, the Dream Center and the Boys and Girls Club to learn about services in our community, and TCC to learn about the Tulsa Achieves program.
Thursday accomplished two things. One, this city is, slowly but surely, beginning to feel like home. The people who live here are fantastic and just so nice (something that’s in very short supply in the northeast). I’m getting lost less when I drive, and am able to orient myself pretty easily. And the city itself has so much character that it’s really hard not to love.
Two, it demonstrated the magnitude of the problem that we will be facing in Tulsa Public Schools. Tulsa is, very much, a part of the South. Even in 2012, the city itself is very much segregated- where you live has less to do with your income than what color you skin is. And it’s very eerie to see.
Tulsa’s northern section is a predominantly Black community. At the turn of the 20th century, North Tulsa was a thriving community often referred to as the Black Wallstreet, full of successful businesses and wealthy Black families. In 1921, after threatening the lynching of a young Black shoe shiner, the white population of Tulsa burnt North Tulsa to the ground. And, nearly a hundred years later, it hasn’t been rebuilt. You cross the railroad tracks and all of a sudden- civilization is just gone. The city goes from a bustling downtown to just… open fields. Nothingness. Then, as you travel further north, away from the city, houses appear, all in really tough shape, but no businesses. Nothing. There isn’t even a grocery store.
Friday was a bit of a blur. In the morning, we met with many of the principals in the Tulsa Public School district to discuss their visions for their schools, their community, and bits of advice. All of them had the same vision for their students- to have their students graduate from high school college ready, and prepared to be a productive member of society. Advice ranged from building relationships, to not being afraid to ask questions, to showing initiative. There was one thing that really stuck with me though, something one of the principals said-
“Parents send you the best that they have.”
Think about that. No parent wants to set their child up for failure; they all want what’s best for their kids, and we all need to keep that in mind, and remember that the educational inequity is the fault of the system, and not parenting.
Saturday, the last day of Induction was rough. After the closing speeches, Lance Tacket, the director of the Oklahoma region, sat down all of the Tulsa corps members who had been placed in Secondary anything (maybe 40 of us?) and informed us that there were, in fact, only 12 spots for us. We were given the option of either transferring to OKC or taking the Elementary or ECE exam to teach that level in Tulsa. After the initial outrage and indignation (you mean I busted my butt studying Calc for NOTHING?!???!), I’m actually pretty excited. I’ll be teaching 3rd grade this summer, and little kids are fun- they aren’t jaded yet, and still have a lot of enthusiasm for learning that will, hopefully, be infectious.
So, Institute starts tomorrow. I’m done with waiting. And, I’ll leave you with this parting thought. On Saturday, we had to write a reflection of our time at Induction, and what we hope to get out of our time in Institute. Then, we were asked to summarize that into a statement:
“I’m hoping to use my skills as a passionate, energetic, and caring individual to absorb as much as possible from Institute, to become an active member in the Tulsa community, to be a part of changing the big picture of education as an advocate, and to empower my students, because this isn’t about me- it’s about THEM.”