Caroline in the Delta

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Jun 27 2011


I never think of myself as a highly disorganized person. Highly organized, no, but not highly disorganized, either. To function as a teacher, and seemingly especially as a TFA teacher, one must be relatively organized.

This semester I proved myself to be both highly disorganized and highly irresponsible regarding money, my profession, and the next year of my life– in regards to grad classes.

When you join TFA and are placed in a school, you jump through many hoops. You are told what to do. The problem in TFA is prioritizing. They continuously tell you you must get good at it, you must learn to do it well and pay attention to it. YOU TRY, you do try, all of us try, but there is an alarming disconnect when you realize that everything communicated to you is at high or very high priority. The result, for me, is to keep everything at a mid-level of monotonous priority, which leads to my irresponsibility. Fail.

To be a middle school teacher with middle school certification in Arkansas (I have provisional certification for 4-8 education), I was told by our TFA license people that I needed to take and pass both Arkansas History and Teaching Reading II. I was told that both classes are a joke, that it’s easy and you just jump through the hoops and get through.


TFA people took something near $400 and registered me for my Arkansas History class. It was on-line, through a school who’s name I didn’t even really know. Once I finally logged into Blackboard I think I was already an assignment behind. I got the login and thought of myself as “registered.”

Teaching Reading did not take my money right away. I applied to UAM on-line, heard about what day and time the class started from a fellow TFA-er, and showed up. and showed up. and showed up. You may remember my mess of communications with the Dean of the College of Ed, and the Registrar office, and the Admissions office, and whatever other of the 12 people I called and was transferred between in the week-long ordeal of actually getting registered for the class, two months late. When I finally paid tuition, it was $1,400 for one class.


Arkansas History included three exams (I think) and bi-weekly assignments, all via Blackboard. My professor repeatedly apologized for not putting up grades because she didn’t understand how; there were over 50 people in the class (how you grade 3-page homework assignments for that many people is beyond me). I didn’t realize there was a Blackboard messaging system until I was about halfway into the class. All of my homework assignments were completed with wikipedia and google. What I learned from the class: 1) I hate Blackboard; 2) there were two major Native America tribes in Arkansas; 3) the big flood was in 1927. That’s about it.

Teaching Reading II was a great atmosphere. The professor was kind, there were five of us in her class, and I consistently got 100%s on her assignments. I drove 45 minutes every other week to sit for two and a half hours and watch a powerpoint presentation and catch up on journaling or writing letters to friends. I learned… I don’t know what I learned.

THE RESULT (must read)

About two weeks after my teaching reading class was over, the one in which the Dean of students called me irresponsible and expressed concern that I was allowed to teach a class of students, I got an email from Teach For America saying I don’t need that class for my certification, and I should consider it, if nothing else, enrichment and an aid to my being a better teacher. The class that was pleasant but by no means even remotely as productive or beneficial as even ONE SINGLE professional Saturday offered by TFA, that I spent $1,400 on and however many more in gas money, was totally useless.

My Arkansas History class ended a week before I thought my final exam was. I wrote the week of the test a week late in my school planner, and when I went to take it everything was closed and assigned. I missed my final exam. Totally missed it. The first exam for the class I was booted out of by Blackboard and never finished.

I still have no idea if I passed.

I also never sent in my transcripts or MMR verification because I spent too much time ignoring it and pretending it would go away. I am now sitting, halfway into summer, two weeks before my transcript is due to TFA, praying that I somehow did not fail the class and will be okay for my year two provisional license.

This also means I’m really trying not to freak out. This whole post is so self-deprecating, but really there is no other place to put any blame. This part of growing up is skin-itchingly frustrating. I refuse to type out the “if”s that would have easily prevented this discomfort and irritation.


It is embarrassing to track all this, to post it publicly, but it’s also a part of my TFA/teaching experience. You have to be irresponsible sometimes to learn how important it is to be responsible. Tomorrow I have a number of intimidating phone calls to make as a result, and perhaps will post the result.

Just because I need to cleanse my system and vent and also remember to call each of these places, I will list for you my irresponsible mistakes that will be on the path to reconciliation as of tomorrow morning (feel free to hold me accountable):

1. PCCUA Admissions & Records office, (870)338-7542, to ask 1) if I was ever officially registered and 2) for an official transcript to be sent to the TFA office at P.O. Box 2544, West Helena, AR 72390

2. MI Secretary of State, (888)-SOS-MICH, because I lost the form you need to fill out to renew expired tags on my license plate and, surprise, my tags expired a week and a half ago.


1. Eye Doctor in Dumas to order contacts, because I already got my eye exam in Little Rock at a place that didn’t accept my vision insurance but I didn’t realize it until I paid 75$ for the exam.

2. If Secretary of State in MI doesn’t work out… the DMV in AR to get a new license place, new tags, and a huge fine for not doing so a year ago when I first moved here.

3. Dumas Public Library, to see if they accept donations

4. Arkansas Post, to drop off all my recycling and go for my first 3-mile run in the Delta. :)

5. Post office, to return the Aldo shoes that were sent to me with each foot being a different size (?!), send Kristiena’s birthday present, and pay my ticket from running a stop sign directly outside the High School on the last day of school because I was distracted looking directly at the cop car. NO JOKE. THIS IS MY LIFE.

If you actually read this, congratulations and thank you for being a distant but amazingly high quality friend (or for being supremely bored). An hour ago I was quite perturbed about all these situations I have, now I just feel like it’s a to do list.

3 Responses

  1. I love you! I hear people say doing TFA has forced them to learn how to be organized… It’s had the opposite effect on me. Teaching has made me distractible, scatter-brained, and forgetful (if apologetic)… I’m glad I’m not alone. … Kinda.

    Also, Blackboard sucks.

  2. Shoshana

    hi, i’m a distant friend :) so glad you write all this so i can still be a part of your amazing (if somewhat disorganized) life. we’ll probably never get it all together.. actually i know we won’t.. but don’t fret, it just adds more spice to life;)

    okay caroline, i love you

  3. v


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