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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

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Travelin' Through the 'Dirty South'!

I'm inexplicably giddy right now. Why? I'M IN THE SOUTH!!!!! Okay, it may not be that big of a deal to you, but I'm eerily elated. It's so incredible here! It's everything I fantasized it to be and more.

Okay, now for the update: my friend Andrew Pillow, Randy Peaser, and I left Indianapolis this afternoon at 3pm to begin our caravan to Mississippi. We drove through Kentucky and stopped in Tennessee.  The whole excursion lasted around six hours. We passed by Louisville, Kentucky and I must say that I loved the sights  I encountered. Louisville seems like a pretty awesome college town. After a couple more hours from Louisville, we were in Nashville, Tennessee. THIS PLACE ROCKS! I kid you not! As soon as we got in, we stopped at a place called Monell's. Monell's is a family style Southern restaurant that serves without the customary guide of a menu. You sit down at a huge, dining-room style table with other patrons and the restaurant's servers bring out abundant portions of food in pots to the table. Then, you pass the pots around and share the delicious entree choices. I just have to say that the turnip greens and pulled pork bowls were my absolute favorite. Here is a new fact I just discovered:

Real Southern Food > Any other kind of food.

The Country Music Awards are also here this weekend and the city is abound with tourism, strum guitar enthusiasts, and attractive people. It's quite the exciting place to be. I'm strongly considering applying to Vanderbilt University at this point. That's how much I've become attracted to the locality. I wouldn't mind spending a few years studying here. Anyways...

We're spending tonight in Nashville but will leave for the Mississippi Delta tomorrow. I am definitely not looking forward to the heat and humidity I've heard so much about. As far as TFA logistics, I don't know what's going to happen tomorrow, but I do know that I'm stoked. I'll have an update for all of you sometime later this week. Wish me luck in the classroom!

With Unwavering Love,
Derik Ohanian

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

First Day of Induction and Missing California

So, I'm going to be blunt about it--I miss California. I miss the weather.  I miss the prodigality. I miss my friends. I miss my family. I miss home. I miss you. 

Back to why I'm here...

So for today, we officially started Induction. I woke up at 7:45am, took a shower, and met up with the rest of the Corps (50 people) for breakfast. After bagels and milk, we were underway. We began going over the mission statement of Teach For America and discussed its core values. Most of the day was really dedicated to workshops and teacher empowerment sessions. The ultimate thing I took away from today is: Underperforming students continue to underperform because their environment holds low expectations for them. If you hold equally high expectations for your entire class, these students will excel just as successfully as any other top performing student. By the way, we had lunch at Marian University's dining hall and two minutes into the session, a discussion about the relative morality of Female Genital Mutilation ensued. It was pretty random and yes...I instigated it. Oh and let me tell you something--THEY DON'T COMPOST DISCARDED FOOD AT MARIAN UNIVERSITY! As a Berkeley alumnus and frequent Crossroads consumer, I was appalled. Get it together, Marian. Get it together.

After induction (which lasted from 9am-5pm), we all went back to our dorms and changed into our "bar clothes". All fifty of us went to the Old Spaghetti Factory for dinner in Downtown Indy and then went to a chain bar called "Howl At The Moon". Apparently they have a location in Hollywood. Anyhow, it was a pretty cool event because I got to meet a ton of people and there were two pianists taking music requests from the audience. I purchased my signature beverage--the Cadillac Margarita. Thanks for the introduction to that Mike Gevorgian.

So, I got back home about an hour ago. It's funny, I had trouble sleeping on the bunk bed last night because I kept on thinking I'd fall off the top bunk. But it dawned on me later on that I could just take the mattress off the bed frame and place it on the floor. Lo and behold, I'm sleeping on the floor tonight. I'm going to shoot for waking up at 6:15am tomorrow to go hit the gym. Tomorrow's another long day but then we get to go bowling at night. Let me just add that TFA covers EVERY cost. It's pretty sweet.

Alright my Loves, this concludes my blog entry for the day. I did interview at a school yesterday and the two principals seemed to really like me. I kept making them laugh and even through in a little self-aggrandizement. Gotta show my true colors, right?

With Unwavering Love,
Derik Ohanian

Monday, June 6, 2011

Landing in Indy

Hey y'all,
Good news, I've made it to Indianapolis in one piece. This morning, I departed from the Los Angeles International Airport at 12:00pm and landed in Chicago by 5:30pm (it's a three and a half hour flight but Chicago is two hours ahead). Once I got to Chicago's airport, which I must say is insanely big by the way, I hurried off to the next gate where I would meet the aircraft that would whisk me away to my new home. The plane took off around 6:15pm and after a half hour flight, I landed in Indianapolis at 7:45pm (Indianapolis is an Eastern Time zone). So yeah, I leapt 3 hours in one day--my sleep schedule is going to be so fucked.

Over here, I got picked up by a nice gent named Nathaniel Fleckenstein. He was gracious enough to take me to his home where other Teach For America corps members reside. I'm spending the night here and going to Marian University tomorrow where I'll be living in college style dorms for the week. I'm excited... -__-

As for Indianapolis, it's a pretty nice town. I'll post more pictures, but just try and envision this image in your head--it's very sloooowwww. I can't describe it comprehensibly. Things just feel like they're moving with slower gears. I don't know. I might just be tired. I hope jet lag doesn't make me miserable.

So yeah, that's my update for now. I have a job interview tomorrow with the Indianapolis Math and Science Academy for a potential teaching gig. I'll let you know if I get the job with another blog post tomorrow.

With Unwavering Love,
Derik Ohanian

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Inaugurating Post

Hey y'all!
As some of you know, yours truly is leaving sunny Los Angeles tomorrow morning for Indianapolis, Indiana. To confirm the rumors, yes I will be an elementary school teacher for the next couple of years. I haven't received a grade or school assignment yet but once that becomes available, y'all will be notified. As for why I'm doing this, it should be obvious if you know me. I'm passionate about public service and narrowing the gulf of opportunity between the privileged and underprivileged. This is one avenue where I can exercise that disposition.

As of right now, I'm feverishly packing. I don't know why I'm taking so many articles of clothing. I've literally stuffed fifteen dress shirts, seven ties, eight pairs of pants, two suits, a dozen t-shirts, dozens of socks and pairs of underwear, six pairs of shoes, belts, etc. into two regularly sized pieces of luggage. I've got all my favorite philosophy books with me as well. I really hope I won't have to pay for any "extra weight" fees. God dammit...

Teach For America--the program that I was accepted into--will be welcoming new Corps Members this week as part of the Induction segment. Though I'm not quite sure what the next five days will entail, I am certain that we will get better acquainted with the program and learn more about what is expected of us. I'll keep you posted.

On Saturday, June 11th, I will be carpooling down with other Corps Members to Cleveland, Mississippi. The kind folks at Delta State University have been gracious enough to host us for six weeks as we submit ourselves to the brutal and constructive "Institute". This is an intense training session where we will learn how to become better at the task we signed ourselves up for. But I'll be posting updates throughout this next month and a half so stay tuned.

For now, I want to say goodbye. Goodbye to my friends in Glendale/Los Angeles. Goodbye to my friends in the Bay. I love you all. And to my new friends in Indianapolis and Mississippi--I can't wait to meet you!

With Unwavering Love,
Derik Ohanian