Drinking the Kool-Aid

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap

Archives › What kids say

I’ve done a fair bit of reading about racism, but until now the only connection to education has been that I occasionally post things here about what I read. Recently though, I read bell hooks’ “Teaching Community: A Pedogogy of Hope” (which was admittedly mostly about undergraduate and graduate students) and started Lisa Delpit’s “Other…

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Jan 14 2013

A Thing That Happened

Part of my new job is subbing every once in a while for the teachers of our after-school program, and today for the first time I subbed at a K-8 school on the side of town where I taught. I felt a filling bit of belonging, interacting with kids who could have been my students’…

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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 19 2012

Uncle Sam Needs YOU

Today we talked about correlation vs. causation. The goal was to differentiate between different types of relationships, to see past mere relatedness and get to whether causal statements are grounded or not. Very cool. One of the examples we looked at was the fact that in most hospitals, there is a positive relationship between the…

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Jan 03 2012

Pick Your Battles

Gems from today: Toothpik, after I accidentally set the timer for 5 seconds instead of 5 minutes: “Miss,  that was barely 5 seconds! This aint Aisa! I aint Chinese!” … if I were a better person and hadn’t been dead-set on getting him started on the problems on the board, I would have laid a smackdown on…

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Dec 12 2011


I’m not sure whether I need to write about “classroom management” or “anger management.” We’re giving an online pre-test to all math students today—something that’s made much easier by the 24 laptops that now live in every classroom (!). I hate HATE doing online stuff as a class. I don’t mind letting kids get on…

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Dec 01 2011

Yeah, I’m sweatin you.

I LOVE the hard kids who piss teachers off. The ones who really have problems. The ones who yell things and throw things or just look at you sullenly and shrug, no matter what you say. I used to be jealous of City Year people or tutors, because they gain the kids’ trust so quickly…

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Ok miss, I’m not one to give excuses. But I do not know anything you teach me. It’s like asking a man who’s been blind since birth to describe the details of Africa’s horizon, or ask him what color shirt you are wearing. He will never answer because he is blind. Everything you talk of is…

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Nov 03 2011

Milking Students

One of the things I’ve really, REALLY improved at this year is grades/grading (I say that with the asterisk that being good at grades has meant being bad at failure rates). Last year, I gave way too much credit for completion and way too many “participation points,” and I came back strong this year by…

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Sep 21 2011

“You have a lot to do”

My Shell made a really heavily truthful comment to me yesterday. I, like the silly novice teacher I am, was lecturing the class because a student had said something about not trying on our last test. She said, “Miss, you gotta understand. All four years of high school. Our freshman year, we didn’t even have…

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My classroom clock is stuck on 12 noon (and 15 seconds). If it read the real time, I might have the chance to be upset that I’m just sitting down to start working at 8:36pm–but I’m going to pretend that I’m stuck in time too and steal this moment to reflect. Tonight was my second…

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Sep 07 2011

Leaving School at 9pm

… 9:15, actually, and loving it! Minus the backache, knee-ache, and foot-ache. Today was one of those days where technically you’re doing work, but you’re not doing anything that takes too much thought or has any roadblocks, so you stay fresh mentally. No Teaching Headache today. Love it. I wish this had been a long…

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Sep 02 2011


Whole Brain Teaching or no, it still sucks when you put off planning your lesson to morning and then oversleep. … or maybe this feeling has more to do with my poor 2nd period. My babies are poisoned and I just want to heal them magically and make them know they can do this. I…

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Today I led a group of 24 high schoolers down Bourbon street in New Orleans at 10am. I’m on an end-of-year KIPP trip (last-minute chaperone! LOVE it!), and according to one of the students, this morning we passed 23 bars, 11 of which had pictures of naked girls in the windows. Whoops. New Orleans is…

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May 16 2011

My Chance

My kid they call Dirty has been refusing to do any work for the past week or so, and I’ve been absolutely at a loss (as usual). I wrote him up one day for it, thinking maybe he just needed someone to coerce him into doing what’s best for himself… but it didn’t feel right…

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May 14 2011

Climate Change

Looking at the next three weeks… and given the last two weeks… I just can’t help but write about the love I feel for my creatures. A huge, huge part of me learning to teach them well was learning them. I didn’t realize this until recently—when I ended some days looking back on how I…

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May 12 2011


Ugh. I’ve been writing a post in my head for the last couple of days about my wonderful kids are and how I’m realizing more and more every day that they can do absolutely anything, and that they want to. My DJ started staying in my class for 5th period (she’s in 3rd period) to…

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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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Apr 27 2011

More Words Learned in Texas

Part of the weird TAKS schedule means that as we’re rotating through the freshman class, the math department gets to eat lunch in the classrooms with the kids. Today, the kids in room 603 and I had a discussion about slang and what words they say that I don’t know  (and also how long the…

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Apr 26 2011

The Real Pre-Sophomores

I’ve always been told that the sophomores at my school are the ‘problem children.’ The faculty tells me they’re the rowdiest, rudest, most boldly disrespectful… but I barely interact with any non-sophomores, so I have nothing to compare them to. Also, I worry that the few instances that do confirm that generalization only do so…

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Apr 26 2011

High Stakes

If I could have picked one day—one day out of the whole school year—to have my Brat be in a good mood, it would have been yesterday. I wanted to pull her aside and tell her how much she means to me, that she only missed it by six questions last year and I know…

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Apr 21 2011

Delicious Cold Turkey

I know that my Brat and I, on average, are on better terms than we were in the fall. I know she does more work than she used to and leaves class less often. And I know I’ve gotten a lot better at not triggering her. But I was talking today with a woman who…

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Apr 04 2011


Three important things: Today, my Fake ESL kid copied the notes AND did the examples and checks AND plotted points. I didn’t get nearly excited enough at the time, so I’m bringing him a candy bar tomorrow. I’ve decided that even if none of my other kids pass, I’ll be happy if I can just…

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Each, of course, followed by the obligatory “AAAAPRIL FOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOLSS!!!” and class-wide “BAAAHAhahaaa!!”: 5. “I’m going to do all my work today.” 4. “I love  math.” 3. “Miss, you are SUCH a good teacher! You’re like the best teacher at this school!” 2. “Miss, you’re pretty.” 1. “Miss, you DON’T look like Snoop’s Mama.” … sigh.…

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Mar 26 2011

Pre-Sophomore Teacher

Yesterday, I made a shift. If you know high school freshmen, you know that there’s some point close to the end of the year when they stop being freshmen per se and become… “pre-sophomores.” (likewise, there’s a point closer to the beginning when they actually become high-school students instead of eighth-graders plopped into a high…

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