EDIT: The purpose of this post was not to bash TFA or teachers who aren’t from TFA. The purpose was to express my frustration at the message they are sending to us this institute. The comments have been side tracked by union debates, if TFA is worthwhile, and bad mouthing TFA. The vision that TFA has is wonderful. I am just questioning the methods. To say I expected better from teachers and people who are in education to act in a professional and respectful manner would be a bare minimum. I ask that you consider this when making your comments. 7/12/2012
I haven’t written anything since I got to institute because I had nothing positive to say. And I didn’t want to add to the negative message out there.
But today, I feel the need to speak out.
I wasn’t buying the message today.
TFA is telling me that how I plan for math will be how I plan for social studies. But I can’t see it. I’ve asked for help, but haven’t received any. My supposed support structure doesn’t seem willing to set up a concrete time to meet with me to explain how the math lesson planning is the same as the social studies lesson planning (which I will be teaching in the fall).
I got a good look at my summer school data so far and where my kids are. They are failing. I am failing. I have failed them. There are 4 (FOUR) days left in Chicago summer school at my placement school. According to my mentor, I have actually widened the achievement gap this summer rather than keeping it the same or changing it for the better.
I can’t fail these kids. They deserve better. But I’m not sure how to make myself a better teacher in a content area that I basically know nothing about and that I quite honestly stink at (Math). Every day I spend hours on the computer or looking in the resource books to try to teach myself the lesson that I am planning. I lose precious planning time trying to understand exactly what it means when the TFA/CPS provided objective say “SWBAT estimate the square root of a non-perfect square.”
Today I was told that I am learning how to look up content and how to actually plan. I will give them the actually planning step- three weeks ago the lesson plan I wrote was complete garbage! Utter trash. Now they are just three day old leftovers in the fridge. But the content- all I am doing is researching- which I already knew how to do.
This fear and feeling of being unprepared every time I walk into the classroom is why I was complaining about the Pre-work earlier.
One week of training is not enough time before putting us in a classroom. Five weeks of one hour a day teaching plus sessions IS NOT ENOUGH. I am no longer trusting in the system that I will be a prepared teacher ready to make transformational goals from Day One.
I was ok with thinking that “this is just institute, this is just what I have to jump through to actually be able to teach. This fall it won’t be like this. I will be teaching something I know, something I actually care about.” I got through this last 1.5 weeks promising myself that I would get to teach social studies that last week- something I am totally passionate about (voting). But then TFA changed our schedule. We don’t have a final week. We only have 2 days of instructional time next week. We had our kids for a total of 11 days. 11 DAYS.
In 11 DAYS I am supposed to help these kids get 30 more points on a standardize test. In those 12 days we are only teaching 22 objectives. So even if they aced every day and got every objective that we taught- IT STILL WOULDN’T BE ENOUGH. They still wouldn’t make these arbitrary growth goals that TFA gave us.
But what gave me pause today was that we found out that we only have 2 days of teaching that 4th week. And I was supposed to switch to teach that with one other teacher. We would have been the only two switching. This was something I really wanted to do. I wanted to prepare myself for the fall.
But as I was being told how I utterly failing my kids and myself as a teacher, I learned something. THIS ISN’T ABOUT ME. This is about THEM. What I want doesn’t matter. It is what they NEED. And they NEED consistency. Thus, I stepped back and decided to teach math those last two days. It was/is really tough. And once I made that decision- I no longer trusted in TFA’s line. They are failing and I am supposed to continue teaching them?
I forced myself to hold in the tears long enough to make it back to my room. But on the way one of my awesome corps members stopped me just to say hi and ask how my day was going. And I told the truth. Later we started talking, and a few other corps members came over. They were more supporting than anyone else I have met here. And they helped me realize something
I AM NOT ALONE IN FEELING LIKE THIS.
We are all feeling like we are learning some things but not other things. I thought that going into instate that I would be preparing for the fall. And I am. But I am only learning two aspects- how to plan with a purpose (maybe not even using the same template) AND how to manage behavior. This is not what I thought I would be doing and thus had a bit of shock.
I do not feel like I can teach in a classroom this fall. I do not think I have the skills to practice on these kids. I do not feel that I have that right. These kids deserve better than that.
But my Jax family taught me something today.
It’s good that I feel this way. It’s good that I feel like they need someone better, because that pushes me to BE that better teacher. That sense of urgency is what is pushing me to give 150% of myself. To go that extra mile to commit to them.
But most of all: that I am not alone. And that is what made m write this post. If you are out there and doubting the party line, if you are feeling like you aren’t learning anything, if you feel like you need more help or more support: YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
That alone made me feel better. Something else that would make me feel better: TFA admitting to us, to the corps, that you will not be this way for day one. That you can’t be this way from day one. That you will fail. That you will have days in which the kids don’t understand anything. And most of all you will have days that all you want to do is cry. But most of all I want the lies to stop.