This week was my first week of training at the Sunflower County Freedom Project. I will be teaching reading to students going into eighth grade, and leading enrichment for older students. I am basically a teacher for the next next five weeks. My students will call me Ms. Spolin and I spend my time planning lessons and thinking about attention getting symbols. We have training from 7:15 in the morning to five in the afternoon–I haven’t had days this long since high school. We have spent the week planning lessons, learning about classroom management, and how to mentor students. I am so looking forward to Monday, my first day of teaching. I am also nervous to be teaching and leading from eight in the morning from to five at night. In college, I’m tired after three hours of class. the program i am working on focuses on enrichment for younger students, but i also am getting to know older students who are applying to college. I play two very different roles, because I will be a teacher (literally) for eighth graders, and then a mentor for older kids.
The freedom project encourages all of the students that attend the summer school and mentorship program to be a leader; in fact, LEAD is the motto we will be emphasizing throughout the summer. The LEAD principles stand for Leadership, education, action, and discipline. There will be 20 eighth grade students and 67 students overall in the program.
I have loved meeting the other volunteers: three are from ole miss, two are from Amherst, and three are Robertson Scholars at UNC and Duke. It is interesting because we are all transplanted into the Delta and are processing together what it is like. There are no natives of the Mississippi Delta, and there are only two native Mississippians.
Culturally, Sunflower County unlike anywhere else i have ever been in my life. the first day i arrived, I was wearing an old t-shirt that said boston. When i was walking around the grocery store, two people asked me how i liked Mississippi. “you arent from here, are you?” they seemed shocked that someone from California would come to their rural area of Mississippi. Being white also gives me away. Sunflower County has around 30,000 people, 75% of whom are African American. The white people live in a certain area of town and send their kids to Indianola Academy, a known segregationist academy founded in the 1970’s when the federal government forced Mississippi public schools to integrate. All of the kids that attend this after school program are black and attend the all black public school. It feels so segregated to me. As an outsider, I don’t know much, but there are physical barriers separating white neighborhoods from black neighborhoods, there are two separate schools, each with entirely homogeneous populations, and there are even separate ways of speaking, words, and mannerisms.