Blue Suede Shoes

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap

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Jun 08 2014

The Graduation…

A couple of weekends ago, I made a very short trip back to Memphis, my third in the two years since I left. The sole motivation for this trip was to see the first freshmen I’d ever taught graduate from high school. Of course, I got to spend quality time with some of my dearest…

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Jun 02 2013

The Critical Mass…

I was lucky enough to teach at a school with other corps members, who quickly became my support system and some of my closest friends in Memphis besides my roommates. My first year, there were 8 of us; my second year, 5. But while clustering was a massive individual benefit, I questioned – and still…

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May 02 2012

The [Second] Final Stretch…

“Ms. H., that test was easy.” Music to my ears, this was what several of my best students told after the state algebra 1 test yesterday. I hope that this confidence is not misplaced. Scores should be back to us in the next two weeks, and I am eager to see how my students performed. I’ve…

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Apr 11 2012

The Visitor…

One of my students from last year, B., came to visit a few weeks ago. B. was a beautiful girl, frequently smiling, and maybe this is one year’s detachment talking, but I don’t remember her giving me much trouble. She had also transferred in to my relatively calm algebra class late in the year, so…

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Oct 06 2011

The Substitute…

Just about nine weeks into my second year, I had to have my first-ever substitute today. (Really thought I could make it two years without one…) I can’t explain why I was so anxious about it… perhaps the horror stories I’d heard from other teachers, perhaps the fact that my 7th period misbehaves chronically even…

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Aug 28 2011

The Importance of Teaching…

When I think about why I decided to join Teach For America, lots of cliches come to mind: I wanted to make a difference; I wanted to be the kind of teacher I had growing up; I wanted to pay it forward after being given so much by my adopted country and its education system.…

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Aug 17 2011

The New Start…

It’s a new [school] year, and I am hopeful. I am looking forward, but also giving great consideration to the past year and all my flaws and failures, both personal and professional. Was I the best teacher I could’ve been last year? I don’t think so. Was I the best friend? Probably not. The best…

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Aug 01 2011

The Second Chance…

I’ve been referring to this year as my “redemption year,” because my schedule is now geometry-heavy, and I know I did not do my best with my two geometry classes last year. Now, with tentative class rosters available, I find that pretty much all of my algebra 1 students from last year are in my…

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May 23 2011

The End of Days…

Well, the apocalypse came and went, and I’m still here, finishing out the school year, hanging on to my perfect attendance record, even though I would love to take a day off or two just to sort out my life… I need to prepare for institute! Shopping, packing, completing pre-work, the list goes on. There…

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May 05 2011

The [First] Final Stretch…

My algebra students took their end-of-course test on Tuesday. Naturally, I’m very interested in seeing the results. Several students told me they thought it was easy, but I don’t necessarily believe all of them. We shall see.  One of my strongest students told me today that she didn’t finish, which really frustrated me, because the…

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Apr 06 2011

The Roller Coaster Day…

It’s amazing how one’s mood can fluctuate within a single school day. One student in my second geometry class actually apologized to me for his behavior last quarter and vowed to do better this final quarter. I was definitely taken by surprise, as I had not done anything to prompt this apology – no phone…

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Mar 29 2011

The Love, Part 2…

Sometimes, I’ll hear a student say to a teacher, “You’re not my mom!” or “You’re not my dad!” On occasion, I’ve heard the teacher respond, “Thank goodness!” or some variation. I figured that I’d respond in the same way to any difficult student should the situation arise. I love my students, but in most cases,…

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Mar 08 2011

The Love…

Where is the love? That is the question. My PD observed me today for Round 3, and behavior management was the focus area of the day. In my least-invested algebra class, behavior is a huge problem, and it has become a battle, as my PD put it. “You don’t teach us” vs. “You don’t pay…

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Feb 08 2011

The Math Coach…

Early in the year, a math coach from the district came to my school and observed each of us. Her attitude towards Teach For America was very negative and offered feedback that I found very difficult to conceive of implementing in my classroom (no remediation? EOCT rigor all the time? I’d lose even more than…

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Feb 01 2011

The Tuesday Highs and Lows…

One of my students very obviously does not know how to read. (Can we just stop and reflect for a minute how tragic it is that someone can make it to 9th grade without basic literacy?) His math skills are deficient, clearly, but not terrible as long as there aren’t words involved. Today, he got…

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Jan 02 2011

The Fresh Start…

TFA shouldn’t let corps members go home for winter break. If I thought it was hard to get back on the plane after Labor Day weekend with my family in Florida, it was ten times worse this time around, after two excellent weeks at home. On New Year’s Eve, I looked in the mirror and…

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Dec 17 2010

The Payoff…

One short answer topic on the midterm I gave my students was “What is one career you are interested in learning more about? How will geometry help you in this future career?” The following is the response I received from D.: One career that I want to pursue is becoming an architect. I am more interested…

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Nov 23 2010

The Uphill Battle…

A fellow corps member and co-worker put it best last week: never before teaching here had she been witness to such a “vehemence for learning.” The chorus among my classes this week and last has been, “Why do we have to learn? Why do you have to teach us stuff?” Last week because we were…

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Nov 10 2010

The New Class…

Congratulations to the first batch of 2011 corps members! A year has passed since I logged on to find that I’d be joining Teach For America in Memphis. One co-op, one graduation, one institute, and three months of teaching later, here I am calling new accepts to welcome them to our corps. It’s like we’re…

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Oct 09 2010

The First Nine Weeks…

One-eighth of my Teach For America commitment has ended. I am alternately satisfied and dissatisfied with the way the past quarter has gone. As one of my more bratty students said a couple of weeks ago, in an attempt to defend her class’s poor behavior,  “We haven’t made you cry yet.” That’s still true, so…

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Aug 25 2010

The Investment Piece…

It breaks my heart every day how behind my students are. I think what bothers me even more, though, is the lack of investment I see. I believe students can and want to learn (Habit of Mind #2, perhaps?), but I’m not sure they know how to express that desire productively. Most of my students…

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Aug 11 2010

The Best Question…

The past two days, I wasn’t able to gauge where I stood, really, with my students. They were, for the most part, attentive, well-behaved, and quiet. Very few people even volunteered to call out answers to questions like, “What’s your favorite color?” I did think I was projecting a no-nonsense attitude, but I couldn’t tell…

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Aug 09 2010

The First Day…

Before I fell asleep last night, I thought to myself, I will never get another first day of teaching again. No matter how things had gone today, it would always have been the one, solitary first day of teaching I would ever get to experience. No takebacks, no backsies. Just one and done. And it…

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erstwhile math teacher, current student


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