Caroline in the Delta

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
May 27 2010


It simultaneously feels that I have been inching and sprinting through the summer, and especially the TFA process. Since my last update, I’ve taken the class NYC professional trip, traveled to and from Taiwan, spent a bit of time in Chicago, had a total physical (blood work! menengitis shot!), and went to the dentist. I took my PRAXIS I exam, got a “certificate of excellence” for high scores in PRAXIS II (and giggled about thinking I did poorly), and mailed my transcripts off to the Arkansas office.

All that’s left is half my required reading (plan to do beach-side this weekend on Beaver Island), and my second classroom observation that, frankly, I’m not sure I’ll be able to do. My connection to Kalamazoo schools fell through, and it is now maybe two weeks until the end of the year. I feel terrible barging in this late, trying to make connections this late, and being disappointed if it ends up being a field day or testing week. Because I observed three classrooms while I worked as an OC at the Philly Institute last summer (TFA training), I don’t think it will be a huge issue if I don’t manage it.

Speaking of the observation– WOW! I had the chance to observe one of my best friend’s English classes that she teaches in Taiwan. Though it was dramatically different than anything I’ll encounter, it was definitely relevant. The class was 2 and 3 year olds that hardly have any sort of handle on Chinese, and they know the English alphabet, some are reading Chinese books, and all are incredibly well behaved and disciplined. Though it was a very unique room, things like classroom management, tone of voice, working with other teachers, using in-class rewards and long term behavior incentives were all very relevant.

My travel schedule means I have not slept in the same place (or even same city) for more than two nights in a row in the past three weeks. I slept in friends apartments, hotels, hostels, planes, homes in Kalamazoo and Novi. My toothbrush doesn’t leave my bag for more than the 10 minutes it takes to clean my teeth, because bathrooms keep changing. This is definitely, definitely, a time of major transition.

When I first found I was elated that there is even a special blogging site just for TFA teachers. Now that I’m using it, I see how much is to be desired. As a design major that interned at a web design company, I crave perfect usability, perks that make me literally say “oh! that is so smart!”, simple features like syncing with other sites and obvious log in, log out, connections and comments. I love the premise of, but I can’t stand the way it functions from my end as the user. (As a reader I don’t think it’s too bad.)

On my trip I read Teacher Man by Frank McCourt. It was a graduation gift from my cousin Rose, and I read it cover to cover while flying. He taught in inner-city NYC and this was a teaching memoir. It was so valuable! Favorite quote:

How it must feel…to wake up in the morning, to leap gladly from the bed, knowing that before you stretched a day in which you’d do God’s work with the youth of America, content with your meager renumeration, your real reward the glow of graditute in the eager eyes of your students

It was a slightly sarcastic comment, but the kind that still has truth and optimism. The book was very realistic and very uplifting and made me feel more confident to make mistakes, fail, succeed, and try try try.

4 Responses

  1. Cindy

    I have a friend who had McCourt as a teacher in the NY public schools. He says it was an amazing year! At least one (probably more) kid is going to think that about you too!

    Towards that end, I sent a book back to Michigan with Chelsea for you . . . I hope it passes muster to make it into your classroom, and please, remember that I work in a book store, and get amazing resources from publishers. Soon as you know the age/grade of your classroom, let me know. I promise, as long as I have the contacts, to be an almost never-ending resource for you and your little minds.

  2. Jill Turner

    I do not know who you contacted about doing a classroom observation here in KPS but you might try contacting specific schools. I did my internship teaching in KPS this last semester at Milwood Elementary School. Maybe you could start there. The Principal (Chuck Pearson) and Vice-Principal (Tim Reese) are both extremely friendly and maybe able to help you out with getting you into a classroom. It is just a suggestion.

  3. WOW! That’s so awesome. Reading the memoir made me wish I could have had him.

    Thank you again SO much for the books, and all your encouragement & resources! I can’t wait to be updating about my classroom…

  4. & Jill– Thank you SO much for giving me the boost to keep trying for an observation. It was literally your comment that made me make another effort and it worked out so easily! I’m not going to that school, but your advice pushed me so thank you!

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