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updates for 02.23.2011

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Teach For America Summer Institute for Dummies: How to survive TFA boot camp

As a record number of new corps members (actually, that's a lie, I am far too exhausted to research if there are a record number of new corps members this year) are receiving the overwhelming and thrilling news that there is a spot for them in the 2011 corps, there is also probably a record level of panic regarding Teach For America's notorious and sometimes negatively-hyped summer training institute.  When I was accepted to Teach For America in 2010, my first three thoughts were:  1. Yay. 2. How am I going to pay for it? 3.  How am I going to survive institute? Googling "how to survive institute", "tips for institute", and "teach for america summer institute" led to dizzying hours reading horror stories and negative propaganda that wasn't helpful in the least. The small amount of resources compared with the high level of anxiety that exists for institute inspired me to write this post. In no way am I an institute expert, except for the fact that I survived institute without being sued, committing suicide, or dropping out of Teach For America. If you're reading this, I'm going to assume that you've already made the commitment to Teach For America, or that your son/daughter has already commited to Teach For America. Congratulations, but, more importantly, THANK YOU. Regardless of the advice I give you here, you will make it through summer institute. How do I know this? Because you have made the commitment to do whatever it takes to succeed. You have proven your leadership skills, persevearance, and ability to overcome challenges. I also want to preface this post by saying this is just my opinion. Not only are there varying opinons about how to succeed at Institute, but we are all different. TFA recruits an extremely diverse corps, and we've all found success in our own ways. Additionally, each corps member has such a different experience at Institute. Your institute experience will be impacted by where you go to Institute, who your roommate is, what your placement is, whether or not you've been placed, what grade and subject you teach at Institute, who your staff is, and what else you have going on in your life, amongst other things. But the number one thing that impacts your institute experience? Your attitude. It sounds hokey, but it's true. A lot of getting through Institute is common sense, attitude, and learning things the hard way (like I did). I certainly did not follow all of the advice contained in this post. Even though there may not be anything super profound in this list, I hope it will ease your aprehension about going to "teacher camp". Think of it as a retreat, not a bootcamp. I cringe when I read things on the internet relating Institute to some sort of TFA hazing. I don't think Institute is designed to break down corps members. I truly believe that Institute is designed to give corps members the best possible level of training with limited time and budget resources. Yes, it's hardcore, but it's intense because it has to be. The time, space, and resources required to pull off such an extensive and amazing training is mind-blowing. And yeah, it's demanding. But believe it or not, drill seargants don't wake you up at 4 AM demanding that you make hospital corners for 8 hours. Here is some no-nonsense advice not only on how to get through it, but how to make the most of it. Questions? AskTracyJane@gmail.com. 1. Prepare to sweat. I mean this literally. I lead with this because it was the biggest surprise for me at Institute. The only time I was not sweating at Institute was when I was taking a shower. Sweating when you're wearing a suit and trying to get up in front of 8th graders for the first time teaching your first lesson is NOT fun. So plan ahead as much as you can, but just accept now that promises of air conditioning are probably misleading. Luckily, except for the genetic superfreaks who were born with hypoactive sweat glands, everyone will be sweating, which makes it slightly less horrific. 2. Do the prework! I know  you already talked to your friends who went to Institute last year and they told you the prework doesn't matter. I wholeheartedly disagree with them. It is essential to your long-term success as a teacher that you not only do the prework, but absorb as much information as you can before Institute. Your focus during the prework should be absorbing the information from the reading and processing it. Don't think of it as an assignment that you have to turn in (which you do). Instead, think of it as part of Institute and part of your training. You will get SO MUCH more out of Institute if you read Teaching As Leadership BEFORE you get there (and I don't mean skimming it the night before you leave Induction). 3. Don't buy a bunch of crap before you get there. You will probably be tempted to purchase school supplies before you get to Institute, driven by the fear that you likely won't have a car or time to dash off to Office Depot at your disposal. Don't stress. You won't really know what you need until you get there and find out what grade and subject you are teaching. TFA provides tons of materials for you. Don't waste your money now. Save it for when you will really need it. Yes, we did go buy supplies while at Institute, but most of the stuff I brought ahead of time went to waste because it wasn't what I needed. The only supply that I can personally guaruntee that you will find useful is a mini-stapler, but even that isn't necessary. 4. Get organized from day one. You're gonna be given books, handouts, and resources galore. Don't shove them in your bag and think, oh, those will come in handy someday. That someday in October when you desperately want to find that one handout you seem to remember getting is going to be a lot less Hellish if you can actually find it. Find a way to organize your paper files AND your electronic files, including your lesson plans. Save everything. This isn't "Hoarders". This is TFA. Hoard. 5. Put your oxygen mask on first. All for one and one for all, there's no "I' in team, and the strength of the wolf is the pack. That's all fine and dandy, but you aren't going to be of any use to your team if you are sick, exhausted, or having a nervous breakdown. You absolutely need to take care of yourself before and at Institute. Which leads me to my next point... 6. Find balance NOW. I think a lot of us go into Institute with the mentality that hey, it's only 5 weeks, I'll just put EVERYTHING into it and rest later. In fact, I think that's how a lot of us approach TFA. You know the problem with that? Burnout. If we are serious about actually being teachers, and being a part of this movement for the long haul, we can't see everything as a temporary "I'll get through it". Don't put off finding balance. Institute isn't just a place to learn how to teach. It's a place to learn how to be a teacher. Your ability to find balance over the next few years is going to be a crucial element to your success. Having balance in your life at Institute is not easy. I will give some more advice in the next few bullet points about how to set boundaries. Make a plan ahead of time and stick to it. 7. Have a bedtime. Yeah, listen to your mother. Even the best of us ended up pulling a few near-all-nighters at Institute. TOTALLY unnecessary and suckful. If you plan ahead, pace yourself, and work efficiently, this will not happen to you. Set a bedtime, and cut yourself off at that time. As a teacher, you can ALWAYS do more. But set this limit for yourself and you will be more likely to plan ahead so that you can get in bed on time and get an actual full night of rest. Sleep is so critical to functioning your best at Institute. 8. Yeah, and get some exercise, too. Okay, this coming from the girl who ate pizza for every meal at Institute and almost had a heart attack walking to the beach. But seriously, even a liesurely walk around campus, a morning run, or a dip in the pool can really relieve stress, help you process things mentally, and help improve the quality of your sleep. I don't think it is necessary that you join the rec center unless  working out is already a part of your daily routine, but finding a way to slip in some small pieces of exercise can't hurt. 9. Love your students. It's amazing how scary a group of 11-year-olds can seem the first time you're standing up in front of them as their teacher. But no matter what happens at Institute, even if you're a high school teacher and you get assigned to first grade, just love those kids. They will be, more than likely, the first students that you ever teach. They will always hold a special place in your heart, so don't forget to cherish the few weeks you have with them. They will end up teaching you WAY more than you will ever teach them. I feel forever indebted to that first group of students that I taught last summer, and I still keep in touch with many of them. You CAN and you WILL have an impact on them, even though the time is short, and they will change your life forever. They will make you a teacher. 10. Don't leave town on the weekends. I know you miss your boyfriend. I know your parents make really good meatloaf. But don't do it. Don't take off for the weekend. I really believe in being immersed in the experience of Institute. Maybe because I experienced Institute 4 years after college and had a chance to miss college, I really loved living in the dorms again. I definitely think it's good to get off campus on the weekends and explore the town you're staying in (all a part of living life and having balance), but staying in town is an important part of committing to the experience of Institute. Leaving town, for a lot of people, meant increased emotional and physical exhaustion. If you just can't stay away from your honeybuns, have them come visit you in sunny LA/Chicago/Wherever you are. 11. The resource room is your best friend. Your Institute will likely have a resource room. The resource room is basically a library full of resources, including staff members, who are there to help you out. USE IT! I think the best time to go is Friday afternoon. It is the least crowded because everyone else has already checked out for the weekend. Also, you're more relaxed and have time to plan ahead and browse around. You know that $30 First Days of School book? Yeah. It's there. Free. 12. Copy early. You know when you don't want to be making photocopies? When you're tired, hot, and when everybody else is making copies. Avoid the line by planning AHEAD. Get to the copy room right when they open. Use your weekend time to be a day ahead in your planning. It will save you so much time and frustration. 13. Don't plan all weekend. Don't play all weekend. Balance! In order to be successful at Institute, I believe you need to plan AND play on the weekends. Definitely take a day off to explore the amazing city you are staying in. At the same time, you certainly need to plan in some time to plan! Unfortunately, procrastination is kind of built into the Institute schedule. You start out sort of behind because your lesson plans are due for the following week at the same time your lesson plans are due for the next day that first week. Use your weekend to combat procrastination. You will enjoy Institute so much more-- and get so much more out of it-- if you aren't perpetually behind. 14. Befriend the staff. Most of the logistics staff are former corps members. Become best friends with them. They will send you tons of resources, snag an extra tote bag for you, or give you extra encouragement on the hard days. And remember: They are getting up at 4 AM, too. 15. Take advantage of your team. I know you can hardly wait to have your very own classroom where you get to decide what color the bulletin boards are, but cherish this time with a team. There are so many advantages to working with a co-lab. Relax, go with the flow, and work together. Also, milk everything you can out of your CMA, FA, LS, and CS. 16. Keep a countdown. Keeping a countown actually helped me get through Institute. I had my own little daily countdown for each week, and I just took it one week at a time. It made Institute very manageable for me. 17. Things (not) to bring. I don't care what anybody tells you, you do not need a car at Institute. In fact, you can barely even use it. What you do need? A HUGE and sturdy backback (I was lugging about 3 tote bags onto the bus with me every day and it sucked). A water bottle. And a couple stupid movies. Time for watching movies? Rare, but an episode of "The Office" or a little Dumb & Dumber can do wonders to reduce stress and anxiety. Oh yeah. And you need a laptop. I don't care what anybody says. 18. Find alone time. Find time to reflect. Institute is such a whirlwind that you may find yourself constantly surrounded by other people. Find some way, each day, to have some alone time. Allow yourself to truly reflect on all of the things you are learning as you go. If you can't find the time, make the time. 19. You do not know everything. The people I saw who wasted their Institute experience were people who went into it thinking they already knew everything and who did not listen. I'm telling you, you gotta listen. You gotta try their methods. I'm not saying you have to adopt them as your own. But at least try them. I learned this lesson the hard way, and early on. In an effort to be consistent at our school site, all of the teachers implemented the same behavioral management system. We gave students class points for good behavior. I was adamently against it. I told everyone who would listen that middle schoolers would not care about class points. Guess who was the worst at management and who drowned their first week? Yeah. Me. And guess who was shocked as Hell to see middle schoolers work their butts off for class points? Me. Turns out this isn't TFA's first time on the ferris wheel. Yeah, you have to find your own style and your own way, but try TFA's methods first. 20. Don't build it up too much. By the time Institute arrived, I was vomitting several times a day. I'm not kidding. I was so incredibly stressed about starting TFA. I had so many fears, worries, anxieties. I was dreading Institute. But honestly, it was one of the best experiences of my life. Don't build it up too much. Easier said than done, I know. But you will make the most of it, learn so much, and meet the most amazing group of individuals you will ever meet in your entire life. I will update this list if I think of any other pearls of wisdom. Corps members and alumni, if you have anything to add, send it my way or add a comment. Good luck, 2011 Corps. You can do this! I'll end with a cliche quote, which seems like just the sort of thing I would do. Robert Louis Stevenson said, "Judge each day not by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant." This summer you will be planting a lot of seeds.

 


A Dream Dashed

On Monday I was standing at the front of the class room surveying my minions students as they worked in partners (if they had earned it) and singly (if they had not), I noticed something strange at the back of the room. R, who had earned the privilege of a partner but claimed he "rolled better solo", was sitting in his desk all the way at the back holding up a piece of paper. I squint. I can't quite make it out ... it looks like an arrow? Pointed at the head of Q, who sits in front of him? ... What does that say? Oh. Hmm ... One of Q's hand's is clearly occupied holding his book open and he is writing with the other, so he is definitely not "txtn" unless he is doing so with his knees.  (In which case I'd probably be more impressed than upset.) At this point I seem to be the only one who has noticed that R has his snitch flag flyin' so, rather than cause a scene, I head quietly toward the back to figure out exactly what is going on. On the way back there I am waylaid by a student with a question and, as I straighten from her desk, I look back to notice that R is now employing a new sign. This one is directed at the girl who sits, oblivious, in front of him quietly reading chapter 6. I head toward the back and hold out a hand for the sign. He hands it over. "And the other one." I get it too. "What on earth?" "I made them in math class...we weren't doing nothing so..." "You decided this was a good use of your time?" He brightens. "I got C's phone took away! Mr. S didn't see her until I held up my signs. I'm like Batman! I'll patrol your class for you." "At ease Bruce. I think Commissioner Gordon will handle this one on her own." "Aw."

 


The final countdown!

2/22/11 As I told my students today, I can count how many days we have left on one hand! I'm SOOOO ready for it to be over. It's like when you've taken all your finals except for that last one. And it's two days away, and it's all that stands between you and freedom. I have similar feelings in regards to next Tuesday. Class was totally BLAH today. It was partially my fault. I stayed up late grading their essays to give them feedback, so I was tired. Half of class was spent going through test-day procedures and expectations. Then, they received their feedback on their essays. Half of them had to re-write, and it wasn't just the people who failed. It was anyone who I felt didn't put forth 100%. Especially for some of my middle-level writers, I truly feel these re-writes could help them push the cup to commended. There was even one student who I almost accepted her work. I knew it wasn't 100%, but I knew she would put up an argument. When I finished grading last night, I reluctantly put her in the re-write pile because I know holding her to lower standards is the last thing she needs. I was completely correct; she put up a fight today and said she'd rather get detention than re-write it. I knew nothing I would say would change her mind, so I called her mom tonight, because I know she strongly influences her, and asked her to please explain that this wasn't a punishment, that I know how hard she's working, and that it's because I care about her and want her to score higher that I'm pushing her. We'll see what happens in class tomorrow. I have some stress about that though. Anyways, classes were just blah. And I accept total responsibility. The change came around lunchtime. After lunch, I pulled one struggling student from PE for an hour, and then another one for my 2nd part of my conference. It was great time to talk with these students and just practice strategies. After school, several tutorial students didn't show up. This allowed me to focus in on 7 of them. It was fantastic. Another teacher took one student who has focus issues to work one-on-one with him. I set the others up with independent work and conferenced with them one-on-one. They were all working. They feel the urgency too. After one class, because I've told them they can't pass to the 7th grade without passing this....slight fib, one student who is chronically annoying, outspoken, and problematic, asked if she could call home to stay to get extra help. Another student, who has grown on me sooooo much in the past month, was tutoring another struggling student. She even corrected me. In class, lately, I've been saying, "We're pushing those 2s to 3s and 3s to 4s!!" At tutorials, I said, "We've gotta push those 1s to 2s!" She responded, "Miss, I'm pushing to 3s and 4s!!" I smiled broadly and encouraged her, but it's a weird feeling because while she MIGHT, if she gives 100% the day of, scrape by with a 3, but some of the others there for sure will be doing great to get a 2. And I don't want to set them up for unrealistic goals, but I know they notice that they're not told to get a 3, and then I don't want to label them or them to internalize it. But I don't want to be unrealistic with them. Something I was pondering. Anyways, tutoring was fantastic and left me feeling really good about where they are. I'll continue pulling during PE tomorrow and Thursday, and hopefully the final strategy push will pay off. Random final thoughts: --had two students approach me close to tears. One worried about not getting commended. One worried about not passing. I got to be Miss Positive and tried to put them at ease. I hope it worked! --people are coming to observe myself and the 6th grade teacher next week. They want to see what we're doing to get good scores. This makes me sick to my stomach. K, here's to two more days of a strong reinforcement and positivity! Just have to make my kids believe!!! p.s. If you would like to join in some prayers for my kids, and all kids testing on March 1st, the info is on a previous post: http://facinglafrontera.teachforus.org/2011/02/20/join-our-novena/

 


That City... Take a Look

Let's be honest... Detroit has a reputation. Words associated with the city (from various sources) range from "run-down" and "decaying" to "murderous". (Yes, murderous.) While my personal opinion was never to that extreme, I have to admit that it probably wasn't a city I would have 'highly preferred' on my TFA application before I moved to Michigan.  And having just recently moved to Michigan, I am by no means an expert. I can only tell you my current impressions and hope that it helps you take a second look... especially if you applied in the final deadline and want to be a fellow 2011 Detroit corps member! ;) The first time I crossed Detroit's city limits was for my final round interview with TFA. Being super nervous and trying to get there on time in a city I'd never been in, I can't tell you too much about the Motor City itself.  But Detroit people are super amazing. (Yes, I will generalize based on 1 interaction with 1 individual... but hey, gotta argue against the stereotype that all Detroiters are apparently murderous.) Protip: Yank really hard on the door of the Quizno's downtown or it won't open. A really sweet lady was walking toward the door as I was about to open it (to grab a really quick and really small lunch). I first tried to open the door gently... as you should with any glass door, but it stuck.  She then really nicely said that you had to pull really hard on the door to open it. I thanked her, and held he door for her.  When she was in line she pulled out some coupons from her purse. After looking through them, she briefly glanced back at me and asked what I was ordering so she could find a coupon for me.  I politely declined as I literally was ordering the smallest thing possible (nervous= nausea, thanks TFA). But I thanked her for being an extremely nice and giving person as she had given me her expert advice on how to work a door minutes earlier. (She hadn't realized I was the same person having only glanced back at me.) She just asked me to pass it on, saying we all need some extra help and encouragement sometimes. I've been to Detroit since my interview.  I went to the Detroit Institute of Art with one of my friends who grew up in the city.  He also gave me a tour of different places in the city... from Fox Theater to Heidelberg Street. http://www.heidelberg.org/ Detroit does have buildings with boarded up windows. It does have a rich, and at times difficult, history. It is a city that needs educational support and investment, as many cities do. And I'm glad that I can join the Detroit community as a teacher next year. Detroit is no longer just another city that has seen better days. It isn't even just another city in Michigan.  It is my city and I hope you take a second look. I'm still learning about the city and I have a lot of exploring to do... I'll be sure to keep you updated throughout the year.  But for now, I hope you watched the Super Bowl... since this commercial was pretty great: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SKL254Y_jtc

 


TFA's Greatest Contribution?

"It may well be that Teach For America's greatest contribution to education will not be the kids who are helped or the talented young men and women who develop a connection with and affection for public education, but its relentless self-examination -- a process that quite simply puts the rest of teacher education to shame. If Teach For America can work hard to figure out why some of its trainees become better teachers than others, why can't regular schools of education?" John Merrow I was reading an article in the Huffington Post about Teach for America and really related to John Merrow's final statement.  There is so much criticism about Teach for America, but it's hard to argue with the fact that it's an organization that constantly challenges itself to do better. Is in the end-all, be-all solution for fixing what ails the American education system? Absolutely not. But the strength of the organization is that it constantly assesses it's results and figures out ways to improve. My boyfriend is an '09 corps member and even talking to him about the Pre-Institute reading and the Hiring Process, I realize how much TFA has been able to change in order to improve the Corps Member experience, and ultimately it's impact on the students that corps members work with.

 


A brief excerpt from my thesis

I just wrote this yesterday, so it is very rough, but also very applicable to what we're attempting to work against at Teach For America.  Although the thesis is not specifically about education, it has a relatively lengthy chapter specifically on Brown v Board of Ed. and the impact of this Court ruling.  The thesis, more generally, focuses on how legal and theoretical rhetoric have evolved immensely from the King-era Civil Rights activism to today, specifically examining the shift from the universalizing model of "color-blindness" to, ultimately, today's preferred "minoritizing" model.  Naturally, the education topic presents some paradoxes, and a very realistic example of how neither model fully fulfills the needs of the American people adequately.  This segment comes at the end of the education chapter and hasn't been edited at all, so don't judge me!  Also, the copy-and-pasted version will be missing the footnotes which contain the (numerous) citations for my statistics.  It worth noting, perhaps, that I am comparing Baltimore, the city I will be doing my corps membership in, and Bethesda, the city I grew up in.  It's also worth nothing, I suppose, that this excerpt and the thesis holistically discuss race in a very "blunt" manner, which is the way that I was taught, and I believe is correct, to talk about race issues. With that being said, it is not as if the universalizing model adopted after Brown v Board—which has evolved over time in attempts to improve education quality, especially in recent years—was some sort of panacea that equalized low income and high income schools, or one that wiped race out of the education equation altogether. Baltimore, Maryland’s largest city, is a perfect example of this.  While Maryland is the state ranked number one in education, according to Newsweek, the College Board, and Ed Week, Baltimore—a heavily black city, at 63.4 percent black, compared to Maryland’s statistic of just over one quarter African American—trails behind considerably with only 63 percent of eighth graders testing at a proficient reading level. Comparatively, Bethesda, Maryland, an affluent Washington suburb just 45 minutes from Baltimore City, and one of the whitest cities in Maryland at 85.86% white (with just 2.67% African American), was recently awarded the census’s prestigious title of “Best Educated City in America,” with 79 percent of Bethesda residents 25 or older boasting a bachelor’s degree.  Compared to Baltimore’s ranking in the same criteria—with just 19.1 percent of residents over 25 holding bachelor’s degrees (and Maryland’s larger statistic of 31.2 percent)—this title is equally as impressive as it is despicable.  How can Maryland be lauded as not one of, but the single best public education system in the United States of America if its largest city contains one of the lowest performing public school institutions in the country? Of course, these statistics cannot, and should not, be attributed solely to the racial discrepancies between these two cities, nor Maryland’s ethnic demographics as a whole.  It is also true that Baltimore and Bethesda have extremely different margins of wealth.  Bethesda’s high taxes allow it to fund schools incredibly well, while Baltimore’s poverty simply does not provide it the fiscal advantages well-to-do cities have.  To say that the high black population of Baltimore is responsible for the low performing school system is completely incorrect, as it implies an inherent connection between race and intellectual or academic capability, which is nothing more than fodder for racist propaganda. However, it is absolutely necessary to examine the role race plays when discussing education reform and observing the ways in which our country’s systemic racism, brought to its bloody and notorious peak during the Jim Crow era, contributed to the disenfranchisement of African Americans as a people, and destined many American blacks to a lifelong struggle for equal educational opportunity.  This is not an effect of anything more than a systemically prejudicial and unjust social phenomenon, a part of America’s dark history that still has immense ramifications today.  Indeed, the segregation of schools in this country has ultimately contributed to what is perhaps its most disgraceful and unsightly fact of life: the achievement gap.

 


Facebook

So I joined Facebook today. It's a little overwhelming for me. I haven't been opposed to it, I simply was too lazy to get it started. And now, I know I was right. It's certainly not for the lazy! And stressful! I'm not used to contacting people that I don't talk to on a regular basis and asking them if they are my friend. Of course, it probably doesn't mean anything to them, but goodness! What if they don't want to be my friend? Or what if they don't even remember who I am? I'm not sure which would be worse. And I can't even ask my sister, because for unknown reasons the system won't let me. It's too much. I feel revolted just thinking about it. But on a positive note, I have the day off! Hooray for snow days!

 


Planned outage Thursday morning

Teach For Us will be upgrading our servers the morning on Thursday, February 24th. During this time, the site may be unavailable. Thanks for understanding.

 


Excuse Me Miss (or why I finally applied to TFA)

by The Neptunes After working in a 3rd grade classroom for 2 weeks, a student disclosed sexual abuse to me. In the movies - you how everything slows down and the character in question can't talk or think and then everything fades to black. That's kind of how I felt. I was stunned and surprised, but mostly I was angry at the person who could do this to my precious little student. I obviously can't get into the details, but upon reflection, this disclosure might have been the thing that finally convinced me to apply to TFA. I had started to apply to TFA 3 times - once in college, once in grad school and again this fall. The first two times I applied I withdrew before the final interview. I wanted to teach AND I wanted to work towards the end of violence. At the time I didn't see the connection between these things. When my student disclosed abuse to me (well days later after some of the sheer anger and terror had abated) I realized that teachers can work against violence. A trusted adult was obviously really important for my students. Schools are often the ones that have to report child abuse or neglect. Obviously, I'd like to live in a world in which there was no child abuse to report, but since we don't live in that world, teachers, principals and guidance counselors are important first responders. So yes, I care about bilingual and social justice education. Yes, I care deeply about my students and yes I want to push them to grow 1.5 or 2 grade levels in an year. I also want to be there for my students, so they can always say 'excuse me miss' and know that they'll have a listening, caring, loving ear. When I was doing anti-violence organizing with youth in the Dominican Republic,  I met an amazing principal who was able to love her students, provide boundaries and safety, know students' individual needs and prevent / reduce violence. I want to be her. TFA is part of that process and part of the way I can be an "excuse me miss" teacher and then an "excuse me miss principal."

 


Exercise One: Real Talk

Whaddup world, Having received my Pre-Institute package on Valentine's Day (oh hay Teach for America), I have loved the abundance of new material I get to decipher and become intimate with (yes, I am a nerd). Because I graduated early this past winter, I have desperately awaited this material so I can somewhat be a real human being. With that being said, I have already confirmed three upcoming visits to local elementary schools: one school with a predominant Latino/Hispanic student body, one school with a dual language immersion program, and one school "excelling" in terms of state standards. From the correspondence alone that I have had with these principals, I am so tremendously excited for these visits! (SN: I definitely spent all last Saturday night researching the merits of each schools-already losing the social life.) I wanted to use this post to capture my immediate reactions and feelings to the first exercise (of our pre-institute work). No, not my feelings surrounding Ms. Lora's story, rather my critical views pertaining this introductory reading. Below you will find the notes I jotted down. Thanks for reading y'all! PS.  Someone very important to me told me my first post was very "pre-Med" in terms of unnecessary bloating and discussion of achievements-if my first post struck you in this way, I sincerely apologize. My road to TFA has had many up-and-downs chock full of learning experiences; nonetheless, they all have contributed to the person who I am today. While I know this person will get mad at me for bringing this to attention, I am genuinely honored and thrilled to be a part of this movement and cannot wait to play a meaningful role in the lives of my future children (and their families)! Personal Thoughts/Reflections Ok-let’s be real. When I first started reading this story, I was quite disappointed and frustrated with how cliché I found the specific anecdotes to be. Yes, I will be teaching in a predominantly low-income area in a school that has failed its students with a fair and equal opportunity in regards to their education. With that being said, I know and expect my teaching experience to be plagued with students such as Douglas, who have failed numerous times, and students such as Anthony, who are learning English as a second language. Despite these personal expectations, I am also 100% confident that my students will succeed in achieving our classroom goals. While I may feel over confident (out of naivety) in my ability to persevere through challenges and to truly connect with my students, I think the cause-and-effect structure of this story is very dangerous and potentially disillusioning for incoming corps members. Because the majority of us will not have had prior classroom experience, I think it’s this jargon that falsely builds perpetually high expectations that serve as our initial benchmarks upon arrival to Institute. Additionally, with this being our suggested “first reading,” I find it very interesting what potential message(s) TFA is trying to send to incoming CM’s. My only other qualm with this reading was the mentioning of Ms. Lora’s dream to attend Harvard University. Please don’t get me wrong-I am all about having personal goals because I do believe those are what push out to be bigger and greater. Furthermore, I personally want to get my Education doctorate eventually. Nonetheless, I am proudly serving Teach for America and the San Antonio Independent School District (SAISD) because I do believe in the power of education. I do believe education is the great equalizer…well it was for me. I am excited to struggle and to be crushed; call me crazy but I feed off of challenging and trying moments because they always help me improve (yes, that was cheesy). While I know one of the marketable advantages of TFA are its post-service benefits and partnerships, I HATE HEARING ABOUT THESE OPPORTUNITIES IN THE CONTEXT OF TEACHING. No matter what you tell me, by joining the Corps, you are committing to teaching for two years; because of how challenging and demanding this commitment is, how can you honestly give your all if your personal gains are in the back of your head? While this may be a very harsh generalization, I only express these feelings because my personal experiences surrounding public service (and subsequent reflection) tend to centralize on the true meaning of selfless service. Because it’s only February and my TFA tenure is quite premature, I am very anxious to see my future trajectory and how my thoughts and opinions grow and change!

 


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