Let us Put our Minds Together

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
May 23 2012

What to Expect When You’re Expecting

Greetings Programs! (extra points if you get that reference)

I’ll just get this out of the way. Yes, this is my first post. It’s true, first posts are awkward. For this I apologize. Now that we have acknowledged this, lets move on shall we?

There will certainly be an “About Me” section at some point; but for the sake of introductions, bear with me.

My name is Dan, I grew up in western Wisconsin and recently finished my undergrad at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. While there, I studied Public Administration and Political Science. This fall I will be teaching English to secondary students at a school in South Dakota. (*Though I will be teaching English, I consider this blog to be a respite, a safe haven of sorts from more formal/professional writing….Put another way, save the “your grammar/punctuation is wrong, oh the irony” for elsewhere. DO however call me out if I misspell something. Please and thank you.*)


It might be easiest for me to take a moment to address the overall title of this blog, and the title of this post. As I am sure anyone reading this is dying for me to explain why I am a “well-intentioned realist”, i’ll get right to it.

By now it is no secret that TFA is not a perfect organization. Their goals are admirable and I am certainly grateful for the opportunity to try to help struggling students over the next few years (perhaps longer). However, I know that there are plenty of much more qualified people out there that should be helping these kids. There are tens of thousands of unemployed teachers that should rightfully get the jobs that I and many of my fellow CMs will be receiving in the near future. In addition, it is hard to ignore some of the more troubling stories one hears; stories about TFA cajoling schools into laying off veteran teachers and closing public schools in favor of alternative institutions. I’m not out to take anyone’s job. My hope is simply that I can find a way to use my basic skills to help the students in my classroom. Though good intentions do not excuse bad actions or failures, it is my belief that they do count for something. My goal for the next two years is to, through action, realize my intentions to the best of my ability. That explains the “well-intentioned” bit.

I am a fairly opinionated individual. Anyone that has ever talked politics with me or been unfortunate enough to be “friends” with me on TwitterBook knows that I have my beliefs and I like to share them, a lot, whether people want to hear them or not. This habit has highlighted the relative rarity of my generally pragmatic, moderate worldview. In a world where the fringes often yell the loudest, I have set up my hammock in the middle and am just relaxing….as I get criticized from both sides. Often I am labeled a “realist”, a “pragmatist” or a “heartless ass” because I have the nerve to try to view things from more than one side. Like I said above, TFA is not perfect. It has its pros and cons, just like any other organization, and I feel it would be a disservice to myself, my students, and the organization itself, if I did not acknowledge the good, the bad, and the ugly, and plan accordingly.

I’m not a superhero. Though confident that I can make a difference, I do not take it for granted and I will hang my head in shame if I catch myself feeling superior to any other teacher I meet. Whatever my past experiences, however qualified I had to be to become a CM, the truth is that we should all act from a baseline of humility. My fellow 2012 Corps Members and I should be humble because we have done nothing of note yet. Thus, I am attempting to approach the next two years from the most reality-grounded place imaginable. Should I stray from that, someone please prick my giant, ego-inflated balloon head.

Now would be a good time to wrap up my first post. I leave for Induction in less than a week and have been filling each day with a healthy dose of TFA-approved reading materials, and thoughtful critical analysis of my new home from other bloggers on this site, and the broader interwebs. Needless to say, I will not be caught unawares.

2 Responses

  1. Dan

    Yeah his blog has been very helpful in preparing to be unprepared when I get to Institute. Best of luck in Cleveland, what are you teaching?

  2. wildernessexplorer

    South Dakota, that’s pretty cool! I’m heading to Cleveland, which is actually not even a selection on this site because it’s a new TFA area. I agree with the pro/con side to TFA. Have you read Gary Rubinstein’s blog?

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My myriad thoughts as I navigate my time in the classroom.

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