Drinking the Kool-Aid

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap

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A friend of mine told me about a recent date night, where he had a delicious two-hour long conversation about inequality, education, and economics.   After my initial enthusiastic remarks about how great it was he’d found someone who would engage in a conversation like this, I thought for a second and realized that the…

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May 17 2012

No Clearer Mirror

On Wednesday, May 2nd, someone very important to me mentioned that I hate my job casually in conversation, as if this was a known and well-established piece of knowledge between us. I stopped her: “… Wait. I hate my job?” While I try not to make a habit of defining my reality based on what my…

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May 15 2012


It’s blog season. New blogs and new bloggers popping up everywhere make me a little excited and a little… frustrated. I love the newness, love the enthusiasm, love the optimistic anticipation. Of course. But reading First Posts is a little uncomfortable for me, because I can remember so well when I felt the same way…

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Apr 04 2012

Diplomas Now

My students from last year tend to pop into my classroom at random times throughout the day, and in ushering them out, sometimes I get a chance to grab a word. This day, it was my Muted Linebacker, a student who never particularly liked me but never really hated me. He’s the type who laughs…

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Mar 22 2012

Patience Like Tin Foil

I can’t give you problems basic enough. There is no question leading enough. “Doing Math” to you means you saying “I don’t get this” and me telling you the answers. You see math and everything it entails as a huge changing frictionless landscape with nothing to hang onto, and I can’t destroy enough of that…

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There is an amazing discussion happening on THIS post (http://wessie.teachforus.org/2011/08/25/cool-it/ – WHY aren’t my hyperlinks working?), which reminded me that, if I’m going to keep my blog linked to the Whole Brain Teaching discussion forum, I should probably write a little about, you know, Whole Brain Teaching. I began WBT with some trepidation but with more…

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Jun 07 2011


Today was an absolute pile. First period, my Sly kid threw my entire stack of perfect blue paper down the stairwell right after first period. It would have been some stupid mischevious end-of-year thing if it weren’t MY stack of nice paper that I’d set out for them. For some reason it really made me…

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May 31 2011

Down the Hall

I’m so glad the 2011s are coming. I know that we’re not all going to fantastic and wonderful teachers, and I might even be surprised if half of us are—but I tell you what, that idealism everyone throws around about corps members might just be worth something. I don’t intend to vilify or put down…

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May 10 2011

Two or Three Biggest Lessons

Teach For America: “What are the two or three biggest lessons you’re taking away from your corps experience? These could be lessons about your students, yourself, the community where you work, the achievement gap (its causes, the most promising solutions, etc.), our schools and school system, education policy, Teach For America-specific lessons, or anything else–we’re…

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May 03 2011

Teacher-Polishing Machine

Ever wonder whether you’ve done an adequate job of differentiating? Just count up how many kids pick that day to be a “I ain’t finda DO no work!” day. Unsure about whether you’ve inserted enough checks for understanding? Just look at the ratio of kids sleeping to kids working. Don’t bother asking your PD whether…

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May 02 2011

Differentiation on a Stick

I was muy disappointed in myself on Sunday afternoon because I hadn’t done any unit planning, even though I’d had all these great intentions to have super-duper-differentiated layered curriculum for my last five weeks as the first installment of 2YTA. I’d spent all my work time on Saturday deciding what on earth to remediate post-TAKS,…

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… written illegally in a composition notebook hidden beneath my Hallway Relief schedule… tricky tricky… Should our ED be harder on us? What can I do to help fix things? What if my PD next year doesn’t inspire me like mine does? How much PR work does TFA SA need to do? What corps members are…

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If so, I think I have. I don’t even know how to write about the Summit. Ever since Michael Johnston finished speaking, a weird feeling has been turning over and over in me. As I ate dinner at Union Station’s “America” Saturday night and walked the National Mall with a close friend, I kept trying…

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Feb 09 2011

What happened to teaching?

Today was going to be a great day. Laying The Foundations is a wonderful day of professional development—it’s the least relevant of any of them, but it’s FUN. We spend the entire day just doing math problems, with only  minimal discussion of “strategies” and “tricks” and blah blah ideal-classroom blah. For a day, I just…

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Feb 06 2011


I cried last night, for what I think was the first time in 2011. That means I didn’t shed a single tear in the entire month of January. Whoa. Compared to 2010, let me tell you. My life is unrecognizable. I cried because I watched the movie “Precious,” and could think about nothing but my…

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Feb 02 2011

A high and a low

Ooooohhhhh Heavens! I just got a call from the brother of one of my students. I’ve been calling home (various numbers in various forms of disconnected-ness or no-longer-in-service-ness) basically every day since we got back from break, and multiple times before that. FINALLY, I HAVE CONTACT!!! Said student has done zero, zero, zero work, and…

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Jan 30 2011

Substitute Guilt

In the past week, I’ve taken more sick days than I took during the whole of first semester. It began Friday the 21st, with an even-higher-than-usual level of Friday Exhaustion and a tickle in my throat that told me I should stay in bed all day Saturday (too bad. CHAMPS training instead). Three sub days,…

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Jan 29 2011

Direct quotes from my Brat

I love this girl SO much. She’s really funny, and totally uninhibited. She asks the most random questions, and has been the author or some of the funniest things I’ve heard in the classroom. Part of her reminds me of me when I was in the fifth grade—obnoxious and proud of it, with a totally…

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Jan 18 2011

Snapshot 1.18

Today’s lesson was not my best. It’s the first lesson in 2011 that has pretty much flopped, though, so I’m not too broken up about it. When my lessons flopped before, I could see it coming—I knew I’d planned it too hurriedly or carelessly, or I knew there was something involved that the kids wouldn’t…

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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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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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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 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 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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