Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Goodbye Atlanta

Ok so I have been horribly remiss in updating this site. I survived institute at Georgia Tech and have moved into my new place back in M-E-M-P-H-I-S. Couldn’t have imagined how challenging TFA’s Institute training would prove to be. In addition to learning an entirely new skill set full of lesson planning, scaffolding, scheduling objectives, designing assessments, and executing in front of a class for the first time I found myself pushed to change my mindsets and work with others closer than I have ever done before.

I was hardly perfect in my outcomes, my planning, or pretty much any aspect of my time in Atlanta. It was so odd to fall flat on my ass for the first time and be genuinely crappy at something I put so much effort into. My behavior management started out rocky, I was challenged by the math content I was tasked to deliver, and oftentimes I found myself curling up in my CMA room after lesson to nap because I was physically exhausted.

About half way through my experience I got to the point where I could reasonably control the class but the achievement piece wasn’t there at all. I am not a naturally reflective person. Generally I can just try something else or out work an issue. This experience required me to diagnosis tiny behaviors to find underlying faults not with the students but with myself. For the first time in my life I think I understand what it means to be accountable for something really important. It is on my if these kids don’t pass the CRCT (I hear the scores are in and can’t wait to hear how my 8th grade Math scholars fared).

In honor of the 2012 TFA application opening this week let me set the record straight on about institute. Institute is hard as hell and you will be pushed harder and challenged more than you have ever been in your life. However, if you got into TFA in the first place you can handle it. The thing that kept me going was the fact that I hate to fail and I hate to lose. With that in mind I didn’t mind looking silly in front of my students doing crazy lessons, I wasn’t too proud to ask for the help I desperately needed, and I got through the days I wanted to leap from that 2nd story window. You go into this trying to change the world for the better but after Institute I realized you stay in this because of the individual kids in the classroom and not some abstract notion of equity. The achievement gap sucks but more upsetting than any statistics are the 8th graders who can’t read or add. Thats gonna be my inspiration for being the best teacher I possibly can, the kids I taught this Summer.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Quote of the Day 6/8/11

Men are governed only by serving them; the rule is without exception - V. Cousin

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Monday, June 6, 2011

Institute in Atlanta

So I arrived in the ATL this week to begin five weeks of intense teacher training Teach for America calls Institute. Complete with 5am wake-ups, collaborative teaching groups, and four years of education instruction condensed into just over a month I hear that I am in for a long Summer.

Today was my first day of instruction at BEST Academy Middle School in Atlanta, Georgia and next Monday I will be in front of an 8th grade math class all my own. Math should be interesting for me because it definitely wasn't my favorite subject and I think I will be able to relate too and anticipate some of the pitfalls some of my Summer School students may be facing.

The biggest takeaway thus far from my first day though had to be the DRA session I attended this evening. DRA is a reading diagnostic tool that allows a teacher to determine what level a student is reading on. I will be helping to administer these very test this week so we can establish a baseline for the middle school students taking remedial reading course. It was incredible to see how this tool worked and to put it firmly in my figurative "academic toolkit." I was am really excited to get down to the business of teaching and develop the skills that will enable me to have a major impact on the life trajectories of my students. For the first time I felt really "teachery" and it surprised me how pumped I got about it.

During Institute I will be doing a quote of the day here on my sites as well as on twitter.

Quote of the Day (1): In the absence of clearly defined goals, we become strangely loyal to performing daily acts of trivia- Unknown.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

A Movement, Not a Job

Tonight we went to the National Civil Rights Museum which is housed in the Lorraine Hotel where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. The entire exterior of the building has been kept in the state it would have appeared on that fateful evening, right down to the classic cars outside. Inside is a history of the movement in the 1950's and 1960's and culminates in a reproduction of the room where MLK spent his final hours and the view from the balcony where he was gunned down by an unknown shooter.

Ok time for some honesty. I never truly felt connected with the realities of the civil rights movement. I remember covering the struggle for African-American equality in U.S. History and reviewing for the Advanced Placement Exam. I certainly never thought of myself as an active part in this movement, that is easy to view simply as history. I grew up in a town that wasn't very diverse and ditto for the University I attended. This doesn't make them bad places, in fact I love North Attleboro and CUA dearly and would never apologize for them. But there is something about standing behind the site of MLK's death, literally in the path of the bullet that claimed his life reminded me that I have huge shoes to fill and that the fight to ensure people are judged "by the content of their character" rather than anything else is far from over. In a weird way Teach for America here is Memphis is my way of ensuring that the equality of opportunity the United States was founded upon is available for all children, regardless of the zip code into which they were born. This really goes beyond a black or white issue, its an American issue and ending educational inequity is one of the logical successors to the work begun by MLK.

Looking at the my forthcoming classroom experience not simply as a means to a paycheck of closing the achievement gap, but rather as a mission to continue the work of change agents both black and white is truly inspiring to me. I am unabashedly in love with the United States and one of the best jobs I have ever had was opening mail in the shadow of the Capitol Dome for Rep. Mary Fallin (unpaid). Tonight was a huge reminder that you don't have to be in Congress or the Armed Services to fight for your country. There is work to be done everywhere and my spot will be here in Memphis.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011