Breakfast today was at 8:30 am, so I had an extra 15 minutes (well, twenty-five; I snoozed my alarm for the first time) to sleep in. When I got to the dining hall, there was a line leading into the room for us to pick up an envelope and notecard in order to send a message to one of the kids who had come to our dinner on Day 3. My kid hadn’t shown up, so I had to choose a child at random to write to. Even though by necessity my words had to be generic, I still tried to make my card sound as personal and specific as possible.

This morning, Josh Bell talked briefly about leadership, but then we split off into groups to tell our Story of Self (one of the pre-work assignments — you had to write a 5–7 minute story about an experience that helped define your Teach for America decision/journey/who you will be as a teacher). Our group leader led us outside, to everyone’s dismay — we just knew there were swarms of mosquitos waiting for their chance at breakfast.

(The mosquitos in South Carolina aren’t like reasonable Californian mosquitos that only come out between the hours of 7:00 pm and 10:00 am and bite you in daring one-on-one attacks. These mosquitos are relentless, attack in hordes, and are out all day. They bite you through your clothes, too. I’ve never had a Californian mosquito bite me through my socks, yet these South Carolina monsters had a feast off my ankles.)

Our stories were very emotional. Many of the sharers in my group had difficult stories to relay. I always feel a little out of place when people share stories of traumatic experiences because my life has been remarkably free of tragedy thus far. Still, I think my story about a college professor who went above-and-beyond the call of duty to help me understand his class and who really helped me when I was struggling to stay afloat had several key take-away points that the others picked up on, and was worth sharing.

United by both our experiences and the itchy red bumps we were now covered in, our group gathered back in the dining hall for lunch. I got my food and went to sit down — most of the tables had been claimed by various purses, notebooks, and binders, but I found one that had an empty seat and settled there. It was kind of weird, as the tables throughout the dining hall filled up until it seemed that everyone was there and eating, but mine stayed empty. Eventually, people came to join me, but for a while it felt as though I were sitting at a ghost table. It was kind of lonely.

I concentrated on my food. Pork had been the main course (which I don’t eat), and fettuccine alfredo had been a side dish. I filled up my plate with noodles, only to discover once I took a bite that it wasn’t alfredo sauce, but something else that made the noodles taste very bland and weird (someone else told me they thought the same thing). I ended up turning in my plate half-eaten and filling up on dinner rolls (and later a slice of chocolate cake which I actually felt too full to finish) instead.

During lunch, there was a panel of 2011 corps members who talked a bit about their experiences during their first year. Some of their take-away points were:

  • Eat dinner with your fellow corps-members every day
  • Your life will suck, but don’t get too depressed (your kids will make it worth it)
  • Get sleep during Institute (this was a “Do as I say, not as I did” point)
  • Don’t over-plan. You don’t need to be perfect.

After lunch, we took what was called the “D.O.P.E. Test” (Dove, Owl, Peacock, Eagle). It’s a personality assessment test. You are given a series of multiple-choice questions with descriptive words, and you have to decide which adjective describes you best. Then you sum up your answers (e.g. # of answers that were A’s, # that were B’s, etc.) I double-counted a few of my questions when I couldn’t choose between two adjectives, and came out with a close tie between Eagle and Owl, but Owl won. The D.O.P.E. Test is considered to be extremely accurate, and when I read through the description, I saw just how perfectly it described me. For fun, I read through the Eagle’s description as well, but while I did indeed share a few of an Eagle’s traits, I was definitely an Owl. For extra fun, I mentally assessed my family, too. Based on what I knew of them, both me, my dad, and one of my brothers were Owls, my eldest brother was a Peacock, my sister was a Dove, and my mom was an Eagle. We were quite the avian family!

Dope Personality Test


Quoted from this website. Visit and try the test yourself!


The peaceful dove. The dove is people-orientated, loyal, friendly, hard working, and a great team player, but tends to avoid change, confrontation, risk-taking, and assertiveness.


The showy peacock. The peacock loves talking, being the center of attention, has passion/enthusiasm, and is happy/optimistic. Peacocks can be accused of talking too much and aren’t good with detail or time-control.


The wise owl. The owl is logical, mathematically minded, methodical, and sometimes seen as a perfectionist. The owl can be slow to make decisions and inflexible if rules and logic says otherwise. Owls are not big risk takers but love detail.


The bold eagle. Eagles are dominant, stimulated by challenge, decisive, and direct. Eagles can be blunt/stubborn, can lose sight of the big-picture, and can be insensitive to other people’s needs. Eagles are natural achievers.

We split into our bird groups to get a “bird’s eye view” of our characteristics. Then we shared with the group some things that defined us (e.g. Owls tend to be reserved but not unfriendly — we like to cross our arms, but that doesn’t mean we’re not engaged. We also love details and are often quiet in a conversation because we process everything before we speak) and things we especially wanted others to know about us (e.g. we tend to be sensitive, and we believe in a balanced outlook — if a person is discussing a plan in a positive light, we’ll often chime in with some negatives, though the opposite is true as well). This was a very good activity, as it really helped us understand where the other people were coming from and realize we’re not alone in our habits. I decided to use it in my class as well as a bonding/comprehension activity on our first day, though I’d have to simplify the language for elementary school first.

Our closing activity was to vote for a student to speak before the group tonight (as it would be our last night together before heading off to Institute). Finally, we were told that a survey had been sent to us regarding Induction, and that we had better fill it out tonight or else….

After giving us some time (about twenty minutes) in which to take the survey, we were loaded into the vans and taken to Pee Dee National Forest. I slept on the way there and woke up just as we were pulling into a little wooded park. Basically, we were at a man-made lake with a lot of really tall, thin trees with hardly any branches. I talked with some of my friends and then borrowed one of their iPhones to read (at their suggestion) some articles from It was my first time using an iPhone and I accidentally kept saving pages to favorites, and apparently I was using it upside down for most of the time too.

We were alerted to the presence of dinner by the sound of thunderous applause from the people who had been playing kickball. Dinner was pork, so I only had rice (which also had pork in it, which I had to pick out). I had a nice conversation with a boy who asked me about my book and how ePublishing worked. I like sharing, but I always worry that I talk too much. People tell me they’re interested, though, and keep asking questions, so I figure I’m not responsible for giving them the answers!

After dinner, our student speaker began his talk by pointing to each of the 2012 corps members and saying their names (an impressive feat, considering that there’s over 80 of us and he’s only had five days to learn all our names!) Then he talked a bit about the achievement gap and Institute and how we’re all going to fail, but how that was okay. United we stand, divided we fall. It was a good speech — better than many commencement addresses where the students have had weeks to prepare.

When he was done talking, we received our South Carolina 2012 corps member T-shirts (and one of those foam insulators for canned drinks) and took a picture.


Then it was back to the university once more. I wasted some time in my room watching YouTube videos. I was tired, but I’d slept on the way back and so didn’t want to take another nap. I was going to shower, but then my suitemate and I got into a very good conversation about our backgrounds which lasted until midnight. I wanted to write something down about this day before I forgot it, so I worked on my blog until 1:00 am, took a shower, and then packed my bags until 3:30 am, at which point, it seemed wise to sleep before my 6:30 am wake up call.

Tomorrow, I leave for Institute!