Miss Bennett in the Bay

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Jan 27 2008

My Day with Alliant “University”

As I journey towards being a fully credentialed teacher in California, I am required to be enrolled in a credentialing program and pass certain tests to prove that I can, indeed, teach. My credentialing program is called Alliant “University. Basically, the entirety of the Bay Area corps enrolls with this program because they will give us our credential in one year instead of two. Thus far, I have not been impressed with the program. They tend to waste my time by telling me over and over that I need to be preparing my students for the CST by practicing the CST released questions with them. Yes, thanks for that. Please, tell me something I don’t already know.

Anyway, today’s Saturday session of classes started at 9 am in San Francisco. The purpose of this session was to prepare us for the RICA, a very important exam that none of us have ever heard of. One would think that spending 5 hours in a random building across from Pier 39 for such a purpose wouldn’t actually be that bad. One would think that they would spend those hours telling me what will be on this test and showing me exactly how to prepare for it. Instead, they decided that it would be more fun to force me to get up early on a Saturday and drive all the way to the city just so they could waste my time.

The woman in charge of our session about reading comprehension, spelling, and phonemic awareness seemed pretty put together in the beginning. We started the session by talking with each other about how we teach these things. Oh, good, I naively thought to myself. This will actually be useful. To be fair, that part of the day actually was useful because I got to exchange ideas with my fellow teachers. Then, however, the woman decided that none of us were actually literate, because she proceeded to read to us from the test prep book for an hour. I am not exaggerating. Then, she expected us to retain all of that information because she gave us some sample questions and asked us to complete them. It was a whole big packet of questions. She gave the packet out at 12:57. The day was supposed to end at 1. Jess (who, like me, was about to explode from the ridiculousness) raised her hand and said, “So, what, you’re giving us like 5 minutes for this?” And the woman actually says, “No. You take the time you need to take. It’s your time, not mine, and we started late, so you will sit there and answer those questions.” I thought that Jess was going to kill her. I, on the other hand, was contemplating the possible uses for my water bottle as a self-harming weapon. I figured if I was bleeding I’d have a decent reason to leave.

I often wonder what it is about people in the education world who tend to have a natural propensity for being totally ineffective at leading adults. Maybe they don’t understand the differences between adults and children, and come across as condescending. Maybe they forget what it was like to be a teacher, and think its funny (in a sadistic sort of way) to “model” bad teaching practices. Or maybe they’re just those people who don’t mind having their time wasted for no reason. I still can’t figure it out. But all of those people are the same. And whenever I’m around them I feel like my head is going to explode.

My day got weirder from there.

We managed to escape from that time warp and walked to Pier 39 for lunch. We decided that it was silly to get back into our car to drive a few blocks to the TFA office (where we were going to work for the afternoon) because we’d have to pay double for parking. We rationalized that it is a straight shot down one of the streets to the office, and, since it was such a nice day, we’d just walk. It’s actually like 2 miles from Pier 39 to the office, but it wasn’t actually that bad. It was annoying that we were hauling around our laptops and other teacher fare, but otherwise a pleasant time. It was also annoying to have to avoid the multitude of “crazies” that reside in San Fransisco.

We worked for a while at the TFA office until the PD who was there wanted to leave, and then we went to Starbucks down the road. I felt like I didn’t accomplish anything all day. I’ve got a cold and after all that walking I was completely unmotivated. We finished up and had a debate on where to eat. We decided that we had had enough wandering around, so using Christy’s GPS to find a random place was out of the question. We found a newspaper with an ad for a French restaurant down on Pier 2, so we walked the 4 blocks over there. Turns out the French “restaurant” is actually a part of a little market place that is only open during the day, not the evening hours. A woman at one of the few open vendors suggested we go to a good seafood restaurant just down the pier. We walked over there to find a restaurant called Sinbad’s.

The location of this restaurant is great. It’s right on the water with fantastic views of the Oakland Bay Bridge. The menu was a little pricey, but what menu in San Fransisco isn’t? Our experience at Sinbad’s began with trying to find the door. It’s one of those buildings that hides its front door to ward off any potential thieves or customers. When we finally did find it, there was a very large man out front yelling at his kid. We had to walk right through that uncomfortable situation to get inside the restaurant. When we got inside, we were greeted by a 1970′s statue of a half-naked pirate counting his booty. “That’s just weird,” I said. “Yeah,” said Shawna. “Was Sinbad really a pirate?” That gave us food for thought while the owner of the restaurant came to greet us and convince us that Sinbad’s has the best food in town.

We got our table and managed to put all of our very large computer bags under it. I went to the bathroom, which had 2 stalls in it. This is not unusual except for a couple of things. First, the second stall is actually an entirely separate bathroom with a sink in it. There is also a door that leads to the outside. Totally sketchy. Second, the window was being held open by a butter knife. It just seemed totally fitting to have that kind of decor in a restaurant called Sinbad’s.

The food actually was really amazing, and we stayed at the restaurant until about 9 pm. Remember that our wanderings had taken us from Pier 39 to the TFA office to Pier 2, and we figured that we could walk from Pier 2 to Pier 39. We began our trek down The Embarcadero, and it was just starting to drizzle. We were going to just suck it up, but then a limo pulled up and the driver offered us a ride. We figured this was just the icing on the cake of such a crazy day, so, laughing like schoolgirls, we piled into the limo and cruised down the street. It was a good thing he pulled up, too, because as we got out of the car it started pouring.

Then, we realized we didn’t have enough cash to pay for the parking garage.

I remembered seeing an ATM on Pier 39. We slid our way over there and I attempted to withdraw funds. After waiting for about 5 minutes for the machine to process, it read, “The transaction cannot be completed at this time. Please contact your financial institution.” I knew that I had enough money in my account to get $20. Jess tried her card. Same result. We deduced that there was some sort of problem with the machine, and after standing in the soaking rain for about 10 minutes we decided to just go back to the parking garage and hope they take credit cards. Luckily, they do, which means we got extra soaked for nothing.

You would think that after such a crazy, exhausting, somewhat wasted day, we could just get in the car and make our way home. As we’re driving down The Embarcadero, though, we notice huge masses of people streaming down the street. They’ve got ponchos, umbrellas, cowboy hats, and more camouflage pants than I’ve seen in a long time. In the meantime, traffic has come to a complete standstill.

Me: I wonder where all these people are coming from.
Jess: Hey, look at that weird thing next to AT&T Park. What is that?
Shawna: There are a lot of camo pants on those people. I bet it was a country music concert.
Me: I love that if you wear camo pants that automatically means you like country music.
Jess: That thing is a giant light up Coke bottle.
Me: They must have gone to a weird Coke concert.
Shawna: I’m going to roll down the window and ask somebody where they’re coming from.

Shawna: Hey! Where are you coming from?
Guy in camo pants: AT&T!
Shawna: Yes. But what was there?
Guy in camo pants: MOTORCROSS! WOO!
Shawna: Ok then.

Me: Only a guy in camo pants would tell you that he was coming from AT&T Park when you are standing right in front of AT&T park.
Jess: Hey, look at that other guy! He’s sitting on top of that statue!
Me: Oh, man, I wish THAT guy was in camo.
Jess: Well, he’s wearing plaid. It’s pretty much flannel camo.

These are the kinds of conversations we have when we are not talking about teaching. And of course, at the end of a day where I had been treated like a kindergartener, wandered around San Fransisco with a huge computer bag, avoided crazy people, gotten nothing accomplished, ate at a restaurant called Sinbad’s, and ridden in a limo, only we would get caught in the traffic from the motocross event at AT&T Park.

I haven’t had a day that crazy and fun in a long time.

2 Responses

  1. Jess

    What a funny day. I can’t imagine it being weirder. Unless I beat up that Alliant teacher for giving me attitude (Chris–I could have taken her, right?)…. or if we had an extensive conversation about a terrible childhood movie like Kazaam. Oh wait, we dddddiiiiiddd talk about Kazaam. Twice. Haha. I love yesterday.

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"All that is gold does not glitter, not all who wander are lost." -J. R. R. Tolkien

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