Let us Put our Minds Together

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Oct 15 2012

So Here’s What You Missed…

Problem: How does one possibly communicate the craziness of leaving all that is familiar, going through two months of intense training, and starting a new job in a new area?

Solution: Not attempting to and leaving his blog alone for nearly five months.


Hello from the land of…..I’m not sure what would chiefly represent South Dakota/this area….rez dogs? unrelenting/spooky wind? unyielding humor?

Anyways, I just submitted my lesson plans for my 9th week of teaching. Considering we didn’t submit any the first week, this will effectively be my 10th week teaching 6th grade Language Arts. Has it been perfect? Of course not; but have I had more good days than bad? I think yes.

I technically have nearly 60 students. I say technically because on any given day I can count on between 5-10 being absent for some reason or another. I’ll have students gone for a week at a time and up until last week I had students in my roster that had only been to school 5 or 6 days over the first two months of the year.

Before I say anything else, I want to acknowledge that I am extremely fortunate. I inherited a job in what I think is a school with solid administrators, great co-workers, and an outgoing TFA teacher that left me a treasure trove of resources that I have been able to utilize in my classroom. Due to the structure of our school, I only handle half the 6th graders. This means that I teach only 3 classes a day, as opposed to science and social studies, which teach twice as many. My time is consumed by interventions and the requisite busy work associated with teaching;  but it is still clear to me that I have it easier in many ways than some of my peers.

It is October. I did not realize this, but apparently October is some kind of teaching black hole that sucks the life and motivation out of those in the field of education. This seems to be particularly true of Teach for America teachers. That being said, I don’t see it yet. This is led me to think three things:

1) I must be doing something wrong if October isn’t more challenging.

2) Maybe my kids are so great/I have connected with them so well that October is just another month.

and finally

3) Oh dear lord, maybe they are just biding their time and tomorrow I am going to go in and my classroom will have descended into lawlessness.


Call me optimistic/naive, but I like to think it is not that last thought. **Knocks on all the wood in the house**

There is clearly more I can do. Especially when I talk to the admin/my TFA overlords, the gaps in my teaching are glaring and need to be patched up if I want my students to have a good year. That being said, the vast majority of my students are passing, and with each passing day I feel more confident in my ability to find ways to engage my students and make them excited about being in my classroom. Where initially I was overly generous in my use of candy/gum and time on computers as incentives for behavior, I have found a good balance that I believe will generate maximum productivity while developing a firm connection between hard work and rewards. (One of my students called me out on the Pavlovian-ness of my behavior management…I gave her an extra treat for her observation)

My students amaze me. Everyday they find some new way to defy my expectations academically, behaviorally, and personally. Sometimes this is a good thing, sometimes this is a very bad thing. Regardless, it provides me genuine learning moments.

After briefly reviewing what I have written so far, it is clear that my brain needs sleep. If you stumble across this, I hope you found some use out of it. Also, if you happen to be like I was and are googling “Teach for America, South Dakota” before clicking that TFA accept button, here is my advice: trust your gut.

After nearly half a year of steady involvement with TFA, the one piece of advice I read beforehand that has been proven true is that you should not do this unless you are at least 97% positive that it is what you want to do.

With that, I take my leave



PS – I realize I did not mention Institute…that should be telling for those curious/worried about it. I understand we all deal with things differently, but in my opinion rumors of Institute’s difficulty have been greatly exaggerated. I’ll save a more in-depth explanation for a more appropriate time, but don’t let it scare you and you will be fine.

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

South Dakota

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