River Deep, Mountain High

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Dec 04 2011

Bring It On!?

How To Get Teens Excited About Earth Science…

The week after a holiday break is always rough, but this post-Thanksgiving week was crazy! It started with a surprise visit from the Mississippi State Department at 8am Monday morning. My school is under a school improvement plan because it is labeled at-risk-failing, so we have a lot of “help” coming in to consult and evaluate the learning environment. Honestly, I appreciate the attended assistance, but I don’t like having big brother over my shoulder like that. Well, a pleasant, well-intentioned former educator came in to my homeroom class for 40 minutes. Ultimately, he told me I needed to get better control over one student because he tries to be the class clown and throws the rest of the class off. Also, they weren’t invested in the state test.


I hate standardized tests. I hate being told to teach to them. But I understand where he’s coming from. Also, my first period has a high concentration of special education students who don’t take the state test, so I took the advice with a grain of salt. I still hold them to a high standard, but I obviously mention the 8th Grade science test more frequently in my other periods, since it has greater relevance. Maybe I should have highlighted the class composition but I wasn’t interested in making excuses for not being at the top of my game on Monday. My first period was great Tuesday through Friday, so I’m not losing sleep over it. I just wish we received better feedback. I asked a lot of questions because I believe if you know something works in a high-performing district, you should share. I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel.

As I struggled to find time for Science Fair projects during class time, it became necessary for me to take over as head basketball coach for the end of the week when the actual head coach went down with illness. Given that our boys were 6-0, I was a little anxious about taking over the reins. I didn’t want to blow our ability to say: “All We Do Is Win!” Fortunately, the boys stepped up to get the win and I couldn’t be more proud of them. The only downside was that I bore the brunt of playing time complaints and I had to deal with some fragile feelings. I think it’s all good now, though. Coaching, teaching, mentoring, planning, testing, blahblahblahing. Bring it on, because I can handle it.

To be honest, I struggled to write this post. I struggled because I’m feeling a bit ambivalent about my role within Teach For America…again. My blog so far has been fairly positive regarding my experience but I’m starting to feel like I’m sugarcoating a lot. I originally wanted to write about the question: “what good is TFA?” As I continue to scrutinize the work I’m doing here in the Delta, I’ll likely continue to withdraw around my TFA colleagues. I don’t like this dynamic, so I’ll need to speak my mind and keep working to be the change I wish to see, rather than drowning in my own thoughts…

3 Responses

  1. Christopher

    It seems like it has been really difficult so far as expected. A TFA alumni who I believe was feeling the same as you once told me that his first couple of months the rigors of teaching were weighing on him as well. He continued to explain that he finally realized he was making his journey as a teacher about himself and not about the students that desperately needed his help. I know you’ll pull through. Best of luck.

    • Thanks for the well wishes, Christopher. I think that’s very true and I want to get back to the place I was at a few months ago where that conviction- a strong belief in my students, pulled me through. My issue now is that I want to do so much to help my kids reach their potential and I feel the constraints of teaching are getting in the way…

  2. Christopher

    I see. Nonetheless, your reflections have provided me with great insight and judging from previous posts your resilience will propel you forward once again. Take it easy.

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Remove Barriers, Raise the Bar

Mississippi Delta
Middle School

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