Yesterday started just like every other day. I woke up as late as I possibly could without missing the bus, scarfed down some biscuits and gravy (one of the underrated things about Institute is the fact that I get biscuits and gravy every morning. I know my pops is jealous), and arrived at school forty-five minutes before the kids to get set up.
Once the students arrived, I left them in the care of Ms. Lacson, one of our classes other teachers, and headed downstairs for a session on teaching literacy. After the session, I headed up for some small group time with about six of my kids. Again, it was just like any other day. Some students were well behaved, others struggled a bit, and we all powered through another chapter of The Perks of Being a Wallflower.
Post Academic Intervention Hour (our fancy word for small group time), I taught, graded exit tickets (our fancy word for daily work), and took my customary ten minute lunch break. Afterwards, I headed down for the first of two sessions that would take us from 1:30 until the busses that would pick us up at 4:45.
At the onset of the session, we were told it would be a reflection session. Chris, our CS (curriculum specialist), told us that we were officially at the halfway point of Institute and that it was important to take the time to think about our experience so far. But before we’d get to that, he had an alumni come up and tell us about what TFA meant to him.
Marc, our logistics guy at Rogers, came out and began speaking to us.
“When I look back on my time with TFA, I think about all the hard times and all the challenges. I think about the moments that pushed me to the brink and about all the difficult nights where I stayed up all night grading papers. I think about all the times I desperately needed a break.
“Which is why, today, TFA stands for… Totally Free Afternoon!”
As all the corps members stared at each other, wearing bewieldered expressions, the professional staff started handing out flyers detailing a list of activities available back on campus: free massages, a kennel of puppies in the commons, sno cones, a basketball tournament, and many others.
As we read on, Chris started talking again.
“Go ahead, take the afternoon off! Go play with puppies or swim or anything you want! Just don’t lesson plan. Enjoy your free time- you guys have earned it!”
Seriously, people were on the verge of tears. Teachers were hugging each other, high fiving staffers, or still staring at the sheet with mouths agape. In the middle of yet another 18 hour day, they’d suddenly been granted a reprieve. The staff was so excited for us- they must’ve been remembering their own off day from when they were in the corps.
Well, Rogers is only a mile from Tulsa University campus, so a lot of us didn’t even wait for the busses to come pick us up. I walked, in 104 degree weather, in a tie and slacks, so I could be one of the first people in line for a massage. I got the massage, watched Spain down Portugal in the Euro semifinals, and took a “I’m not setting an alarm” nap.
After that, a big group of about fourteen of us went to the soccer fields and played our evening away. We try to go out and play some small-sided games once or twice a week, but it was a great experience getting to play on big fields with real goals. By the time I went to bed, I felt physically and mentally rejuvenated, ready to tackle another day.