Wednesday, June 28, 2006


I have a job.
A self contained 3rd and 4th bridging room.
What that means in non teacher language is that I will have the same 12 - 14 special education students all day every day. My students all have both emotional disorders and learning disabilities.
They're said to be 'born in hell'...wild...uncontrollable...but teachable. That's all I need.
I left with both my 3rd and 4th grade writing curriculum and having signed up for a reading workshop in August. I saw my room and met one of my students (who was, ironically enough, in trouble for sneaking in to the building...hhmmm).
They couldn't stop warning me how much of a challenge this would be.
How they didn't want me to take the position if it wasn't right for me.
How these kids need a really special person.
They need a life changer.
I'm ready.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The Roller Coaster Continues

An afternoon spent getting my bearings, alone, in a city so big I'm always confused.
Giving someone directions and having them ask if I'm from here because I actually knew what I was talking about.
The rejuvenation and optimism that comes with beginnings, and the exhaustion that comes from constantly meeting new people.
Dinner in a fancy restaurant right across the street from Madison Square Garden with an alum.
Playing phone tag with friends I love and miss and can't wait to talk to...
Taking the wrong train, twice, then going the wrong direction on the right train and turning a 1 hour trip into a 3 hour trip with laughter and soy milk and smoothies to comfort our wounded egos.
Frantically preparing for an interview at 11 at night because I just found out I have one tomorrow at 1:30.
Focusing on the kids.
Remembering that this day will only come once and I'd better make the most of it because there's kids waiting for me to be the best teacher I can possibly be.
It's life - raw and not perfect but incredibly...real.

Day 3

The middle of day 3 is here and we have an hour of free (well, kind of) time. Time to finish paperwork, meet with placement staff, get faxes made and documents mailed, but free time nonetheless because we're not sitting in a session.
The past 2 days have been a blur, filled with constant new faces and an overload of information. We spent Monday afternoon doing observations at a school and then had a chance to ask current corps members questions at a panel and over dinner. Tonight we have dinner with an alum in the city (we're in small groups).
Overall, the most overwhelming part so far has been the sheer number of us. There's 566, and we're herded like cattle for the most part. Despite the attempt at small groups, it's largely impersonal, although sometimes the anonymity is nice.
I've met some awesome people with a wide spectrum of life experiences and am already learning so much from the people I live with. The process is messy and the organization imperfect (for some reason many of us unfairly expected something different), but we're slowly getting there. On Monday we start institute (the boot camp part) and I'm excited to meet the kids and start actually doing teaching stuff.
Time to go do my errands and hopefully squeeze in a workout before I leave to find my way to dinner....

Sunday, June 25, 2006


That people are down to earth and focused on the kids.
That it's not a big meat market and other people are missing people from home, too.
That no matter what this summer holds, we're in it together.
This rocks.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

No parachutes or safety nets here
One foot on the water to face these fears
Mat Kearney

Ready or not, it's time to live off of passion. Not everyone gets the chance to do something they've dreamed of.
The goodbyes are said and bags (for the most part) are packed. In 6 hours I 'll be leaving.
There's no profound way to sum it up - it's

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Live with intention
Walk to the edge
Listen hard
Practice wellness
Play with abandon
Choose with no regret
Continue to learn
Appreciate your friends
Do what you love
Live as if this is all there is
Mary Anne Radmacher
I fell in love with a disfunctional school. The vice principal offered me a 1st grade job with staff that were oh so welcoming in a room with a round window and blue carpet and for once I felt like this whole experience could actually really be happening.
But I'm supposed to take a special ed job because that's what my license will be and people just can't switch because Teach for America has to negotiate with the NYC Department of Ed and my enthusiasm is quickly squashed by red tape and unreturned phone calls.
I expected this. Disfunction and things not going the way I planned. For some reason I didn't think it would start until I entered my classroom.
Teach for America is, for the most part, efficient. But even the best of organizations break down sometimes. People are human and make mistakes. They apologize. It wasn't intentional. It's not really even entirely their fault. I just wish it wasn't happening to my dream.
It's time to pick up and move on because it's not about me or the staff at TFA or even the room with the little round window in the school that met me with open arms.
It's about kids. Kids in a classroom that are waiting for me to give them everything I have for the next 2 years. It's time to focus on that and not the messy, human process that it takes to get to them.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Room With A View

I got a job! The position I had prepared to interview for (2nd and 3rd special ed) ended up being cut because of funding, but they had a general ed 1st grade position open, which I was offered before I left the school!
I got to see my room and meet some of my future students, as well as meet the staff in the building. They're so welcoming and I left with lots of email addresses for advice on housing, moving, or just questions in general. The school seems very structured - there are no kids randomly wandering the halls and kids seem to really respect their teachers. Much different from other urban schools I've seen.
My demo lesson went well. The kids were good, but not so good that I never had to correct any behavior, which gave the principal a chance to see my management skills.
The room I'll be teaching in is amazing! It's big, with lots of storage space and a round window right above where my desk will be! The walls are a pale yellow and there's lots of natural light - what a great learning environment! The only downer is no AC - it was over 90 degrees in the room yesterday at 10 in the morning! The school has AC but the assistant principal, who's been there for 6 years, doesn't remember a time when it actually worked in every room. Oh well - if that's the biggest obstacle I face there I'll consider myself lucky and just buy some fans!
Time to finish getting ready - packing and sorting and transitioning....3 more days! There's too much to do to really process right now.

Monday, June 19, 2006

I'm Here!!!

What follows will be random - I'm too overwhelmed (in a good way) to form my thoughts in to neat little paragraphs that make sense.

I'm here and in awe.
The Memphis airport smells like bacon. Everywhere.
I sat by a really cool old guy on the plane who was born and raised in Brooklyn. He was my tour guide as we flew over New York. I took pictures out the window and forgot my vow to not look like a tourist. He also let me in on a little transportation secret - New Yorkers take the Super Shuttle (basically a mini van stuffed full of people and luggage) to Manhattan from the airport - it's much cheaper than a cab! He got me subway maps and made sure I knew where I was going :) See Mom? No need to worry...
My interview for the 2nd/3rd grade Special Ed position is tomorrow morning at 9 am (8 am for all of you KS/MN folks). Pray for me or keep your fingers crossed or send me good energy - whatever it is you believe in because I'll need it! I teach a demo lesson at 9, interview with the vice principal at 10, then haul all of my luggage and excitement with me on a couple of busses and the subway to get back to the airport.
If my flight is on time (which it wasn't today) I'll be in Minneapolis long enough to have dinner with Brandon - wahoo!
4 days to pack and do what I've been putting off for the last few weeks, then it's back here for training!
Thanks to everyone who has written comments or sent emails. My life is chaos right now and it's good to be grounded in people who know and believe in me!

Friday, June 16, 2006

I’m getting excited.
Reading over our institute mailing was strangely comforting (after freaking out that I have to buy new shoes). We have a busy schedule, and it looks like we’ll be up by 5 every morning, but we’re teaching – in teams – but we’re teaching. We’ll have guidelines on setting up objectives and goals for our students and people to help us when we’re failing (or feel like we are). In the afternoon and evening we’ll have various breakout sessions that relate to our teaching area and we’ll also have time to plan and debrief with our teaching team. In our sample schedule we never go past 10, and Saturdays are totally ours to plan, workout, do laundry, etc.
And to top it all off we get to hang out with cool people who share our passion for education and kids and then we get to live in this AMAZING city for 2 years.
Seriously people, how bad can it be?
No bootcamp philosophy for me - it’s like professional development Disneyland – as long as we take each day as it comes and remember to breathe and focus on the kids, it’ll rock.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Leavin On A Jet Plane

A week from now I will be in NYC. They're flying me in for an interview (well, kind of - I have to pay for part of my ticket and all of my other expenses) with a principal for a 2nd/3rd grade Special Ed position. Much better than the 6th grade they originally wanted to interview me for!
I'm pumped - to get a sneak peek of the city and to interview when I can really focus on just the interview, not a million other TFA things.
I have a week to prepare - I'm going to be the most professionally enthusiastic teacher they'll ever meet!

Friday, June 09, 2006

Change of Plans

My original intention for this blog was to chronicle my experience with Teach for America for myself, family, friends, and others in TFA or interested in TFA. I originally thought that this experience would begin on the 25th of June, the start of Induction. What I'm realizing as the summer progresses is that the experience started months ago. The past six months have been filled with paperwork and curriculum and emails and phone calls. There were days I couldn't wait to leave, and other days when I'd wonder if this program was too much for me to handle.
Starting today I'll blog every once and a while about the transition. She says it best in her post about preparing for the best.
"We (all the new corps members) are leaving things behind. Really hard things to leave behind. Nobody takes this leap without loss."
I left a city and a boyfriend and jobs that I loved to pursue this program because I believe in it.
It's time to take that belief and passion and preparation and do something with it that will change the lives of my future students.