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Sunday, August 7, 2011

First Day of Teaching Commences Tomorrow

Hey Y'all,
It's been an incredibly long time since I've provided you with any substance. I thought I'd be able to better keep up with this blogging business, but it's been really hard to muster up the time or coherency to do so. I've been busy planning and training at my high school. Busy getting my house set up. Busy planning for the first day of school. And now all of my exhausted efforts culminate tomorrow with the first impression.  Most of us in Teach For America will begin instruction in our schools. It's a jarring feeling, but it's been done before and will be replicated by us.

Tomorrow, I'll be stepping into the educational arena to try and combat the injustices of systematic inequity. It's remarkably simple to assign blame to whoever we perceive is responsible. But the real intellectual integrity comes with taking the oath to mitigate these problems. We've heard horror stories of the degree of opportunity imbalance in this country. Now, those stories are going to materialize in front of our faces. I don't know what to expect--to be truthful. All I do know is that I'm teaching four Government classes this semester and two World History courses. I've got plenty of material for both, and the enthusiasm to teach it, but I don't think I possess the skill yet. Like a fine wine, I expect all of us to get better with time--but rest assured that it will have a turbulent incipiency.

I want to keep this post brief because I know blogs aren't the most entertaining things to read. I will post again next week with a detailed description of my classroom and the characters in it. I've heard that I'll be dealing with an eclectic bunch. For novelty purposes, I've uploaded a video tour of my classroom. I finished setting up on Friday. I hope you enjoy it. It's only a minute long, but it should endow you with a macro-level picture of the design.

With Unwavering Love,
Derik Ohanian

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Overdue for an Update

Hi Y'all,
I haven't updated this thing in a while, but for good reason--I don't have an established internet source in Indy yet. But not to worry, I'll get one soon and will regularly blog about my adventures in the Midwest soon enough. For now, I'll give you a succinct rundown of the last 2 weeks of my life:

- Left Mississippi
- Spent a night in Nashville (LOVE NASHVILLE)
- Got to Indianapolis and moved in with some friends. Will stay here until my house is vacated.
- Got my car! It's a 2011 Honda Accord Coupe. I absolutely adore it!
- Did a lot of shopping (i.e. bed, food, necessary equipment, etc.)
- Unit planning for my first semester. I'm working on my Government curriculum and what I want to teach and how I want to assess students.
- Been hanging out with 2010 Corps Members and 2011 Corps Members. This part has been a blast.
- Starting work tomorrow. I'll be training at John Marshall Community High School from July 25th to August 4th. Did I mention it's paid training?! =D

I'll post more later. My life is inexplicably hectic right now. Buh-bye for the moment!

With Unwavering Love,
Derik Ohanian

Monday, July 11, 2011

Recap of an Incredible Four-Day Sequence

Hey Y'all,
Wow. I had an incredible four-day sequence of events. All the debauchery and antics I submitted myself to was exactly what I needed to combat my compounding fatigue and boredom. Let me tell you exactly what I did...

To begin with, on Thursday, I went to one of the last remaining juke joints in America--Po'Monkey's. This quaint, little place was situated in the middle of a plant field in RURAL (emphasis on word) Mississippi. There was nothing around it for miles and you had to drive on a dirt road to get there. But the experience was nothing short of memorable. Essentially, this establishment is a bar. You can bring your own liquor in, but you're prohibited from bringing beer. They have beer on the premises for you to purchase. Oh, and did I mention that the building is actually the house of a Deputy Sheriff? Po'Monkey is the Deputy Sheriff. His legal name is Willie Seaberry but his friends and Mississippi locals refer to him as Po'Monkey. It was pretty awesome. I took a group photo with the man himself which can be seen below (he's the gentleman with his hand on my shoulder). The house was muggy and congested though; mostly saturated with TFAers. A lot of people were coming in and out so maneuverability was a bit hampered. But this place is so well known for its rustic appeal that it was mentioned in the New York Times a few years ago. Link can be found here:

Anyhow, on Friday I trekked with my Corps to a Mexican restaurant in Cleveland, Mississippi. Food was decent and drinks were cheap. Although, I do definitely miss the authentic Mexican establishments in Southern California (El Sauz anyone?) Afterwards, we went to the Pickled Okra, a country music bar/club, and just danced and swigged more intoxicating beverages. Definite good times.

The next day, on Saturday, I spent most of the day bumming around in the dorms with my soon to be roommates--Andrew Pillow and Marc Palomo. At nighttime, our Corps traveled to a restaurant called "Airport Grocery". The food was delicious and they also had a live a blues band that played some killer tunes. We all had such a great time drinking and dancing (I'm starting to sound like an alcoholic). Seriously, the music in the Delta has grown on me. I'm really going to miss hearing these melodies live. But oh well, time to move on to bigger and better things.

I spent most of Sunday just working on some lesson plans and relaxing. This is the last weekend I'll be having in the Delta. I can't believe this Institute experience is almost over. Just to think that I came here almost 5 weeks ago to begin an intense Teacher training regimen jars my bones. Words can't describe how much I've enjoyed this experience. I can't wait to get to Indianapolis and begin setting up Pnyx, drafting lesson plans, meeting my students, and inspiring the spirit of public service.

I'll post again when I'm in Indianapolis. I wish you all a fantastic week!

With Unwavering Love,

Monday, July 4, 2011

Fourth of July Weekend!

Hey Y'all,
I noticed I hadn't posted in a while, so here is a blog update.

To start off, Happy Fourth of July to everybody! This weekend was pretty great. On Saturday, a chunk of Indy Corps went to Memphis, Tennessee to spend the day. Memphis is an awesome city! Well, at least certain parts of it. The city is adequately ravaged by poverty, but there is a great tourist sector. We visited the National Civil Rights Museum there as well. The unique thing about this museum is that it's built on the property of the old Lorraine Motel. What's so unique about this property? It's where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. Yes. I was right next to the marker that signified the location of assassination. See that white wreath in the picture to the right? Yeah, that's where he was shot. It was an incredibly powerful moment to be there. It was a little overwhelming to be frank. Anyhow, the museum itself was nothing too spectacular. I mean, I really appreciated the history it endowed patrons with, but it wasn't anything you couldn't find with a little research online. It was mostly text based and you navigated the rooms with your eyes affixed to posters and images. I would've preferred it to be more interactive.

After the museum, we went to the B.B. King Blues Club restaurant. That place was great! They had live music going and the food wasn't too shabby either. A cool thing about Memphis (or at least Beale Street) is that you can drink on the street. Beer vendors dispense liquid heaven at the reasonable cost of $3 a cup. It's pretty awesome. A lot of my friends likened it to Bourbon Street in NOLA. I must head down to New Orleans...

Anyways, yesterday was great too. TFA put on a massive BBQ for us Corps Members in the Statesmen Park. It was a lot of fun. And then, they blasted our retinas with a spectacular fireworks showcase.

My Fourth of July was pretty modest. Worked on some lesson plans, had some lunch and dinner, hung out with some friends (Peaseeeeeeeee), and filled out my kids' progress reports. Those are due tomorrow. I start teaching math tomorrow too. For the past 2 weeks, I was a co-instructor for literacy. I'm so relieved to move on to math.

Only 9 more days in Mississippi! I can't wait to move back to Indianapolis! I'm in the process of leasing a car and moving into my new home. I'll share more info as it becomes available.

'Til the next post, goodbye!

With Unwavering Love,
Derik Ohanian

Sunday, June 26, 2011


Okay, so here is the exciting news I've been hopelessly trying to inflate the importance of these past two days--I GOT A TEACHING JOB IN INDIANAPOLIS!

To clarify, I'm only in Mississippi for the Summer. I'm teaching 2nd grade language arts and math for just four weeks. This isn't my permanent location. I'll be moving back to my regional placement on July 16th.  My regional placement is Indianapolis, Indiana and that is where I'll be spending the next two years of my teaching life. But here is the more incredible part of my news...


Words can't depict how euphoric I am at the thought of this. This is precisely what I wanted to teach and I'll get my chance to do it. Originally, I got placed to teach elementary education but they always warned us that our initial placement was tentative. So, I interviewed over the phone with the assistant principal of John Marshall (how appropriate) High School and they decided to hire me just 20 minutes later. I expressed to him how passionate I was about politics, civil service, and social justice. I guess that's what they were looking for. But anyways, I'm inexplicably excited about this opportunity and can't wait to start posting tales from the Pnyx. That will be the name of my classroom. The Pnyx was the official meeting place of the Athenian Democratic Assembly in ancient Greece.

Anyways, I'll post something again soon.

With Unwavering Love,
Derik Ohanian

Monday, June 13, 2011

First Day of Delta Institute

Howdy (this is not a cultural norm I've picked up here, I'm just electing to be a tool),
I am proud--and exhausted--to say that the 2011 Delta Institute has officially been inaugurated. For those who are confused as to why I'm in Mississippi, allow me to explain: Teach For America operates on the "Teaching As Leadership" paradigm. I know you don't care for me to elaborate on this philosophy, so I won't, but I will synopsize the ultimate takeaway point the model bestows--student scholastic achievement is determined by the teacher. Anyways, Teach For America has placed Corps Members from several regions around the country in the Mississippi Delta for this training session. To give you an idea of what this looks like:

1.) Wake up at 5:15am every morning.
2.) Head to the dining commons to pickup breakfast and acquire a sack lunch for the rest of the day by 6:00am.
3.) Load up on the bus and travel to a school site situated 45 minutes away from our local residence by 6:10. In this case, we're staying at Delta State University
4.) Get to Wedding Elementary by 7:15am.
5.) Workshops from 8am-4pm with a lunch break tossed in between.
6.) Load up on the bus at 4:30pm and come back to Delta State by 5:30pm.

This will be my life for the next 30+ days. But I'm committed to this. I'm inexplicably excited and cannot wait to get into the classroom later next week to teach elementary math and language arts. More blog updates are sure to follow. I just wanted to present you with a succinct post to keep you satisfied until the next major update.

With Unwavering Love,
Derik Ohanian