Drinking the Kool-Aid

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap


Jan 13 2011

Looking Back and Moving Forward

Looking Back: Semester one: Done! I realized today that OPERATION: INSTITUTE officially ends today along with the second nine-week grading period. In reflection, though many of the specific items that were originally part of the endeavor never happened, I think the objective at the soul of the effort was met. Tier 1, Routine, has definitely…

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Jan 13 2011


I’ve always hated probability. It was my least favorite part of Stats, and I still had trouble with combinations and permutations, even at some math teacher training in November. Over the last two weeks, my intervention classes played with M&Ms, Skittles, dice, and”Trashketball” as they learned about probability. As usual, some kids got some parts…

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This is something my beloved CS said at least once a day at Institute. With mastery at 44% and my school demanding a list of “kids who count” (their term, not mine–i.e. kids who are within range of passing the TAKS), it couldn’t be clearer that my re-awakening has come just in time. I can…

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Jan 08 2011

Week 17

My mastery tracker has five yellow boxes and one GREEN box in the sea of orange. I have a checklist to complete every weekday after school, and a tracker on the fridge to see what percentage of the tasks I complete every night. I have a student who admitted to learning something yesterday. I have…

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Jan 07 2011

Take Away

This afternoon, I had two goals for my hungry student: 1) find missing lengths of right triangles and 2) find various areas of composite figures. We were working on the latter, and came across an interesting problem; instead of being given the triangle’s lengths, you were given other measurements that could lead you to deduce…

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Jan 04 2011

Making It Happen

I can’t even begin to figure out a way to tie this post together or make it interesting or profound, and so I’ve been putting off posting it. But I can’t leave it too long, or this blog wouldn’t be the honest chronicle I want it to be. So at the risk of not quite…

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The following is a post by the lovely leader of the Upper Math community on TFAnet, and my reply to it. I’m interested to see what non-math teachers have to say about it, and she just said so many things exactly the way I feel them that I decided her words belong in my blog.…

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Dec 16 2010

I want to study TFA.

I don’t know anything about the data out there that looks at corps member effectiveness, but because I’ve seen so little of it, my gut says that it’s pretty sparse. Why? TFA seems like a pretty hot topic. Only 20 years old, maybe, but controversial and growing fast. Where’s the robust body of research to…

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Dec 15 2010

Posting the Positives

One day, this blog will be full of exclamation points and happy stories about good teaching and respectful children, signaling its author’s total-180-teacher-transformation from incompetence to Best Practices Queen. Until that day comes, however, you’ll have to be satisfied with only sporadic attempts at a balanced perspective—even if it’s only in the hopes that I’m…

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Dec 15 2010


I got to school today, and something in me decided I couldn’t teach another B day. I wish I could say I was as nauseous as I made myself out to be, and I wish I could have just gotten over it and stayed to teach. I also wish I hadn’t already gotten out of…

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Dec 14 2010

Ms. Childish

Monday should have been easy. I had a pretty fun lesson (by “fun,” I mean there was matching and scissors and glue and markers) for Intervention, and Geometry was supposed to just wrap up their benchmark. I did keep it together for all of first, third, and fifth periods—but I think the effort of not…

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Days like this make me wonder whether there’s not something else I could be doing that would be more effective and less like martyrdom. Wouldn’t I have a bigger, better effect on kids if I were a functional human being? Can’t we, as Teach For America, do anything else to make the first year easier?…

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Dec 07 2010

Squeezed Through the Cracks

I’m used to kids randomly appearing and disappearing from my class list. The front office sends out a weekly email with lists of the students who have enrolled/dropped out in the past week, and I usually get about one or two new students every two weeks. I’d say I lose about the same amount, whether…

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Dec 07 2010

Out of the mouths of babes

15-minute write: 1) What is your favorite thing about this class? 2) What is your LEAST favorite thing about this class? 3) If you could do one thing to change this class, what would you do? When I walk into this class I grab my work go to my seat put my back pack down…

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Dec 06 2010

My Wise Young Lesbian

I found out in a meeting on Thursday afternoon with my principal and assistant principal that my school has started “withdrawing” kids. “This is a learning institution. And if we’re not about learning, what are we doing? Kids with bad grades, attendance, behavior… they’re acting in a way that flies in the face of everything…

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“…Well, the 14 here is the diameter. Remember, diameter? … Diameter is all the way across the middle of the circle. In our formula, there’s an r. What does r stand for?    …  What’s an r-word we’ve been talking about with circles?  …   Okay, well, R stands for radius. The diameter goes all the way…

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Dec 03 2010


I am very lucky to have the principal and the administration I have (that’s sooo odd to say, after complaining about them for months). While I’ve officially decided that I really don’t care what they think of me as a teacher; as much as they fail in follow-through and are forced to operate in a…

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Dec 01 2010

Blind Leading the Blind

I literally feel this job gripping me behind my sternum. For forty minutes or so after I’m done teaching, even if I’m not really mulling on anything, I feel this dull, sick weight that doesn’t sigh off. Maybe I’m just tired.       So you’d think I’d try harder to get more sleep. That’s just the…

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Dec 01 2010

Disillusionment for December

… So last night’s moment of peace somehow turned into probably the worst night of sleep I’ve ever had. Lack of exercise means my back hurts no matter what position I decide to try to fall asleep in–and the “soothing” wind turned into gales that slammed the screen door downstairs into the house at intervals…

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Nov 29 2010


It’s just part of the nature of this messy job that so much of it goes unwritten and unsaid. I could write volumes and volumes and still never capture the range of what I do and have done to me, what I do and don’t accomplish, what I ache for, and what things might be…

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Nov 22 2010

Day this what to fight evebody

I’ve had the opportunity over the past couple of days to hear my students’ voices more honestly than ever before. Here’s a sampling of responses to: “write comments that you feel like the staff on this campus need to be aware of in order to improve the climate on this campus.” – stay on top…

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I can say it aloud now: things are getting better. Partly because of this, and partly because of meeting, matriculating, and constantly thinking about 2011 corps members (Hi!), I’ve finally been able to work out a clear way to express why I’m here. The Question is asked in a number of slightly different, very interesting ways:…

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Nov 16 2010

Eating Soup with a Fork

I think about my Institute kids all the time. I did get a picture, and I got a list of email addresses. I even got to visit a couple of them in October. But I still feel like I abandoned them. It’s too easy to justify yourself out of feeling guilty and responsible–I only had…

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It’s so important to be living and working for a purpose. This is hard, hard work. But it’s all for a REASON, which is just what I was missing. The reason I’m here is because in my last year of college, my eyes were opened to so many of the ways our world is SO…

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Nov 14 2010

Just make it to November 11th.

On the way to school: I dreamed I was in a meeting with my administrators and found out I was to be “terminated.” Wishful thinking? Paranoia? Your guess is as good as mine. First period: Revolt. My wise young lesbian interrupts me in the middle of a crappy lesson on no-one-knows-what to address the class:…

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“The minute you think of giving up, think of the reason you held on so long.” - John Maxwell


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