Let us Put our Minds Together

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Jun 06 2013

Taught, Teach, Will Teach

Well, I made it through Year One.

Our students finished school about two weeks back, we had a week of inservices to make up for snow days, and then I packed up and headed out for the summer.

I don’t really want to spend too much time on my personal struggles during my 2nd semester, but I will say that I

-Spent 4 weeks out of school, 3 of those in a hospital

-Became very familiar with the medical system/how insurance works

-Got cabin fever holed up in my house during a 4-5 day snow storm


-Loved almost all of it

As far as results go, i’m not sure how to feel about my students achievement this year. None of them failed thankfully, and unlike some in our school I didn’t have to sell my integrity to make that happen. I was beyond impressed with the hard work my struggling students put in towards the end of the year to make the grade. According to our school’s metric for reading level, my students on average had about 1.6 years of growth. Certainly this is a step in the right direction if continued, I just wish we used a more solid assessment. Basically my students this year were fantastic, making my first year memorable. Hopefully I can take what I learned from them and translate it into a more solid, thorough Mr. D next year.

More than anything this semester/year showed me the good that someone like me can do in the classroom compared to the alternative and yet also that there is so much more I can improve upon. I have no illusions that TFA is a perfect organization. Nationwide they/we steal jobs from more deserving teachers and push for policies and mindsets that in my opinion do more harm than good.

Thankfully, or so I thought, that rarely if never happens in South Dakota. We have had such a small corps and there has been such a high need that I really feel we were, to some some degree still are, operating the way that TFA should be operating. That is, focusing on communities that truly need more teachers and fresh mindsets.

It helps that statistically speaking we have a large number of TFA-ers stay here past their 2-year commitment. A years-long survey of the school I worked at actually showed that there is higher turnover among non-TFA teachers than TFA at our school, something that truly surprised me. Our folks are committed and working hard to bring change and help our students and these communities succeed and stand on their own two feet.

However, I see clouds on the horizon. I don’t recall the exact numbers, but we have something like twice as many 2013s coming in as there were 2012s. From what I have heard/been told, this is a trend that will likely continue in the coming years. Additionally, we are expanding from just two reservations here in South Dakota to a few others across the state next year. While I wish our new 2013s nothing but the best and am hopeful that our expansion can help more ┬ástudents achieve, it all makes very little sense to me.

We are reminded time and again that we have not reached our goals yet in South Dakota. TFA-SoDak has no proof point schools to point to and we still seem to be very much a work in progress, yet we are bringing in more people and expanding to new places? I guess I would have thought we need to have a proven, good product before we go selling it to more people.

With any luck I am just being cynical/naive/a stick in the mud. Hopefully more bright minds and a wider presence here in South Dakota will translate to greater gains. I just fear our eyes are bigger than our stomachs on this one.

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

South Dakota

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