91% of Breakthrough participants are students of color.
Name: Chris Minor
Breakthrough Program: Breakthrough Sacramento
Subject Teaching: Literature
School Attending: UC Davis School of Education; Credential/M.A. Program
It’s day one of Breakthrough Sacramento. As a returner I can’t help but be anxious and excited. As I walked into the meeting room all of the new faces mingling with familiar ones cued a big smile across my face. Although Orientation has only just begun, three things have stuck out to me about the “Big Picture” of Breakthrough.
First, our director’s reminded me that a goal of Breakthrough is to, "Build commitment to soft-skills like self-advocacy and resilience." After having one year of experience and returning within the context of a future career in education, I found that the notion of self-advocacy marks the beginning of my personal objectives for teaching. For me, this theme became integrated into my philosophy of teaching after organizing Student-Led conferences in four languages last year. Watching students explain to this parents their experiences and academic needs in English, Spanish, Hmong and Cantonese drove home the importance of equipping our students with the skills necessary to silently and express their individual and academic needs.
The second thing that the first day of Orientation reminded me of was the Intern Teacher Training Initiative that I struggled with last summer. Initially, I thought it was a tedious restriction on all the faculty’s innovative and creative ideas for instruction. By the end of the summer I begrudgingly acknowledged that the initiative ultimately played a positive role in my development as a teacher I even used in some of my education classes. Although this year the reformatting and restructuring both piques my curiosity and stirs my anxiety for Breakthrough from a teacher perspective, today’s reminded me that ITTI is designed as a research-based, comprehensive model, based on collaborative conversation and a cycle of development. So although I do harbor reservations and a preference for the lesson plan development from 2010, I know that the well-being of the students at Breakthrough Sacramento must outweigh my reservations.
Finally the review of the Core Beliefs of Breakthrough Sacramento highlighted a few things that I hope will drive experiences this year:
Achievement: “As teachers, we are responsible for their education, and we do not equate academic challenges with insufficient home lives.” Although many of our students may come from low socio-economic backgrounds, they were selected for Breakthrough based on their motivation and ability to succeed. As teachers we will not belittle their experiences but equip them with the skills to achieve their goals.
Social Justice: “We seek to change our students’ opportunities and improve our community, not change our students.”
Our students come from rich and diverse backgrounds. We should not work on them through school or attempt to program them to the school. Rather we should insist that their needs dictate the development of education and society.
Excellence: “We believe that if something is worth doing it is worth doing right, and we one committed to investing the time, energy, and attention to detail necessary to do everything right for our students.” Growing up, my family-father, mother, grandparents, aunts, uncles, godparents- insisted on a job well-done. My father often told my younger brother and myself that there are “No Half-jobs.” We must bring this same mentality to teaching. If we fall short by teaching incomplete skills to our students we discredit the profession, fail to provide a complete opportunity for our students, and most importantly, prevent them from demonstrating excellence themselves.
Only one day has passed. Still, I think that reflecting on these thoughts now and during the summer will provide all of the motivation I need to smile, cheer, and teach my students to the best of my ability.