Stir Up the World

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap


The application for TFA is harrowing. But it’s well worth it.

My tips for you:

Before the application:

-read the website, and make sure you’re on board with what TFA stands for
-work on a draft of your resume. Try to keep it one page, talking about your leadership experiences, academic achievements, and extracurriculars. They have sample resumes posted on TFA’s website – I just followed the format of that one.
-work on a draft of your letter of intent. It’s supposed to be under 500 words. I wrote several (8) drafts before I found one that was half decent.
-make sure you have your SAT scores and grades handy; you’ll need them

Written application:

-have other people read your resume & letter of intent
-be consistent throughout the whole written application – you’ll be asked about it during all stages of the application process
-check and double-check everything you write, just in case

Phone interview:

-RELAX; my interviewer was SUPER nice, and it felt like a conversation more than an interview
-be ready to talk about every item you’ve listed on your resume
-have responses in mind for the standard job interview questions about yourself – strengths & weaknesses, etc.
-if they don’t call you at your appointed time, don’t freak out – just email admissions and they’ll take care of it. This happened to me twice!
-have a big window of time open before and after your interview, so you’re not flustered
-have a thought-out question to ask at the end, if you want.

final interview:

**order your transcripts early! If you don’t, you’ll only have about 2 weeks to get them in, which could be nerve-wracking**

* make sure you force yourself to eat beforehand, even if you feel too nervous to eat! The nerves will eventually wear off, and it’ll be hard to think when you’re starving!

Lesson plan:
Make sure you:
-can do your setup in one minute, including writing your name, the grade level, the subject, and the objective of the lesson. I had to practice this several times before I could write fast enough.
-TIME YOURSELF. It seems obvious, but it’s really important. Now matter how awesome your lesson is, it makes you look really bad if you go over time. 5 minutes goes by fast – try to make sure you can get through your lesson plan in 4 ½, just to be safe. They’re really strict on time – 5 minutes isn’t just an approximate estimate.
-make sure everything in the lesson is age-appropriate and realistically feasible in the classroom setting
-have a very specific, measurable objective
-be familiar with what they’re looking for in a lesson plan (I highly recommend reading Teaching as Leadership)
-practice your lesson plan in front of other people – they’ll spot things that you won’t
-get comfortable with your props, and make sure they work. -Don’t rely too much on technology.
-practice it over and over and over again. I did mine at least 3x a day in the weeks leading up to my interview, and each time I did it, I grew more and more comfortable.

Group problem-solving activity: Don’t freak out too much if you don’t say a lot – just make sure you get a few good points in, and tie in the articles if you can.

Written activity: take your time and answer carefully.

Personal interview: be ready to answer the standard job interview questions, and be ready to talk about everything on your resume. Don’t be surprised if they ask about the same things that your phone interviewer did. Make sure you frame your answers in a way that shows that you have the 7 qualities that they look for in a candidate – that’s what they’re looking for out of you during the whole interview. What helped me also was having some ideas of specific things I wanted to do in my classroom.

What I did to prepare (besides what TFA explicitly told me to do):

-read Teaching as Leadership (and the articles, obviously)
-arranged to miss class on the day of my interview (it was ALL DAY)
-ordered and uploaded my transcripts
-submitted my placement preferences
-read through the state standards for first grade and decided on something to teach on (you can pick any grade. It just looks really good if you have an objective that’s specifically aligned to the state standards)
-researched age-appropriate vocabulary/activities
-re-read TFA’s mission, etc. on the website
-wrote a page on how I embodied each of the qualities they’re looking for:

  • critical thinking skills
  • leadership & achievement
  • ability to influence and motivate others
  • perseverance in the face of challenges
  • organizational ability
  • respect for students and families in low-income communities
  • desire to work relentlessly in pursuit of TFA’s mission

(I made up an acronym, LAPCROW, so that I could remember/keep them in mind)

-made sure I had specific examples from my recent past of each quality

Obviously you don’t have to do all this – I’m just listing things that helped me in my application process.

About this Blog

rural Arkansas, eh?

Mississippi Delta
Middle School

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August 2020
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the title

"If one desires to 'stir up the world,' it is easy to be impatient with work for the sake of work. Yet no story's end can forsake its beginning and its middle." -Joshua Wolf Shank on Abraham Lincoln