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Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap

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Jun 08 2013

done and done.

I’ve been home in California for about a week now, eating frozen yogurt and watching movies like it’s my job. I’m officially a Teach For America alumna. By an act of Providence, I got a job teaching 7th grade math in a small town in Colorado. I’m really excited — it’s absolutely perfect. This last…

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May 27 2013

read this book immediately.

It’s called The Defining Decade by Meg Jay. It’s really helpful, especially for those of us who are just finishing TFA.   Oh yeah, I’m done with TFA, by the way, as of Friday afternoon. I can’t even write about it yet — too much to process. I’m packing up, and leaving Arkansas on Wednesday. Wow.

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May 14 2013

institute flashback

I was just looking through an old notebook of mine, and I came across this schedule I wrote out for myself: Daily Schedule 4:30 am get up/quiet time 5:30 breakfast 5:45 board bus 5:30 pm get back/gym/shower 6:30 dinner 7ish plan! BED BY 10:30  12:30

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May 09 2013

losing my grip

Transitions are rough, man. I’ve got 3 more weeks in Arkansas, and I feel like I’m slowly losing my mind. There are so many thoughts and feelings floating inside me and I can’t seem to identify all of them. Here are a few: -I feel like I’m losing my grip on my mind and my…

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Dec 21 2012

three fourths

As of today, I’m three fourths done with my TFA experience. I was just looking back at some of my older posts, and it’s hard to believe that it’s almost over. Two years is not a long time. I love teaching. I knew that before TFA, so TFA doesn’t get any credit for it. I’ve…

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Aug 17 2012

3 things

1) I’m back in Arkansas. 2) I’m stoked for year 2! 3) I’m worried that this whole year-two-being-so-much-better/you-being-so-much-better is a myth. That’s all for now.  I promise I’ll post more when I come up for air.

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Apr 23 2012

TFA’s myth of meritocracy

One of the biggest things TFA claims to fight against is the myth of meritocracy in the U.S.: the belief that anyone can be successful/climb the proverbial ladder if they only work hard enough, and that those who are not successful must be lazy and unmotivated.  This is a classist, very dangerous view, and TFA…

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Mar 06 2012


Misconception #2,532 about teaching: teachers get summers off. We don’t — not really. I have a week of curriculum planning at the end of May, Pre-AP training/leadership the second and fourth weeks of July, and district professional development beginning in August. So I do get June off, but after that I’ll pretty much be working.…

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Feb 22 2012

ghost town

I have Curriculum Development today at what was formerly the “black school” in my district. My school district was desegregated in 1968, and since then the building has not changed significantly. Every time I’m there, I get an eerie feeling, the same feeling I get when I’m visiting a ghost town. This building and its…

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Feb 09 2012


TFA has a few essential qualities that they look for in prospective CMs, and I memorized them when I was interviewing (yes, I did — see my “applying?” page for how ridiculously over-prepared I was for my interview).  I don’t remember them any more, but I think that TFA should definitely add resilience to its…

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Nov 16 2011

residual TFA guilt

One of the things I dislike about TFA is that it ALWAYS makes you feel like you’re not good enough.  I know I still suck as a teacher in many ways, but I am making progress and my administration keeps telling me how great of a job I’m doing.  And every time I have an interaction…

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Nov 09 2011


One year ago today, I said yes.  To TFA, that is.  And what a year it has been.  I already wrote a post about November 9, 2010, but I’ll copy-paste it here: November 9th, 2010. I had it colored in in pink in my planner, and I had written DAY OF RECKONING in huge letters…

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Aug 07 2011

BOSU balls and mattresses

Moving across the country to a place you’ve never been before, starting a job you’ve never done before, and living in a community where you don’t know anybody is a bit like standing on a BOSU exercise ball.  Since the photo uploader thingy isn’t working, all I can do is describe what a BOSU ball…

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Jul 31 2011

sphere of influence, man.

I love my new town.  But I’ve definitely seen a lot of things that are deeply unsettling to me.  I have to realize, though, that: 1. I have absolutely no right to judge. 2. It’s not my job to change these people. My job is my classroom, and that’s what I can control.  I can…

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Jul 31 2011

slightly less nutty

I finally finished cleaning out my classroom!  It is now completely clutter-free, and I can start to arrange and decorate to my heart’s content.  It’s SUCH a relief to have that done, because I feel like I can really get started now. I’m also feeling better about this fall.  The more prepared I become, the…

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Jul 30 2011


That’s the best word to describe me right now.  I got back from Math Pilot Orientation on Tuesday night, and since then I’ve been completely overwhelmed with all of the work I have to do.  I don’t have the energy to do a cohesive blog entry, so I’m going to do bullets. I’ve been spending…

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Jul 27 2011

poll: do you use SLANT?

TFA is big on Teach Like a Champion.  It’s a really good book, and I plan to implement some of its tenets in my own classroom. One of the most popular concepts in the book is using the acronym SLANT for active listening position: Sit up Listen Ask and answer questions Nod your head Track…

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It’s been so reassuring in the last few weeks, especially when I think about the upcoming school year. I can do this, I think.  I just have to be prepared.

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Jul 22 2011

new in town

I’m finishing up my fourth whole day in my new house in Arkansas, and it’s been quite a week. I still vacillate between cautious excitement and overwhelming anxiety, and the lack of structure hasn’t helped.  Our whole summer was so hyperstructured that we didn’t have the chance to really feel too much, and that helped…

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Jul 17 2011


Institute is, as of Friday night, over.  There are so many things to say — I don’t even know where to start. First of all, what’s next?  I have Orientation from 12-7 today then 10-6 tomorrow.  It looks like it’ll be pretty pointless, but I keep telling myself that I’m getting grad school credit for…

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Jul 10 2011

blogging before lesson-planning

Before I buckle down and catch up on lesson-planning, I thought I should blog.  So.  Week 4 of Institute was awesome — I definitely had some rocky days, but my teaching is really improving.  As usual, the week just flew by, and by the time Friday night came, I felt like I had been hit…

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Jul 06 2011

student surveys

In an effort to post more during the week, I’ll post some of my students’ responses to the “classroom culture survey” that the powers that be had us give our kids this week. What has your teacher done to help you know how to behave? take me outside so I can calm down by giving…

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Jul 05 2011

a little Tuesday inspiration

We received a copy of this poem today.  It was written by Elizabeth Ficken, who’s a 2011 CM at the ∆ Institute this summer! You will not tell me That my beautiful black beaming children Will not read You will not tell me That my beautiful black beaming children Will not write You will not…

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Jul 04 2011

oh, the acronyms

As promised, here are some of the many TFA acronyms that have become a part of our insane lexicon here at Institute: TFA: Teach For America CM: Corps Member (me!) CMA: Corps Member Advisor PD: Program Director TAL: Teaching as Leadership (TFA’s book) TALON: Teaching as Leadership Online Network ODC: Observation Debrief Cycle (once a…

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Jul 04 2011

weekends at Institute

We all re-charge in different ways, I guess, and that’s never been as evident to me as it has been at Institute.  I’m always shocked at just how useless I’ve been on the weekends here, at least for the first 24 hours.  I guess the weeks are so intense that the best I can do…

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"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