Everything I Know I Learned in Pre-K

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Dec 03 2011

This Job is Killing Me

I haven’t written in forever, and that’s basically because I have no idea what time is…

Between being constantly observed by one party or another, revamping my classroom so the DOE is happy(er), dealing with combining two very different curricula every week for my lesson plans, going to PD, and giving two separate assessments to all my students, I have been a little worn out. It doesn’t help that I have also been giving a whole battery of other assessments to one of my students so that I can write/finish my early literacy case study paper for my grad class.
Basically, a lot of the time I feel like no one else has a clue what’s going on, which means that when I stumble, no one is there to catch me. From my school site, I am the only one who has been to any PD about UPK or the assessments required by the program, which means that it is hard to get support for the things I am supposed to be doing. For example, my school’s curriculum has been rejected by the DOE as the basis for our UPK program, but the corporate side has done nothing to address this, and so people like my director have their hands tied slightly, making it difficult for her to address, and for me to incorporate. Basically, what it’s come down to is that I write two sets of lesson plans- one for my “regular day” which is basically from 2:30-5:00pm, and one for UPK which is from 9:00-11:30am. Also, because we are short staffed and I don’t have an assistant, just another lead teacher who helps me in the mornings, they actually send me to lunch at 11:00am usually, meaning that the UPK time is cut short by half an hour. This lack-of-assistant thing seriously impedes my ability to give assessments, especially since the UPK-required assessment must be given outside of the classroom to one student at a time.

I love my kids, and I like a lot of the people I work with, but I’m not too sure about making it through two years at TFA. I’m not a giver-upper, in fact, I’ve rarely backed down from anything, but this might be what does it. TFA provides little support for me as a person, instead focusing on stressing me as a corps member. Even though my M,TLD is in my classroom pretty much at least once a week, she apparently isn’t on other people’s backs quite so much. Of my other friends who have her as their M,TLD, she’s been to their (three) classrooms collectively fewer times than she’s been to mine. When I have questions or concerns however, there is very little time for me.

My dad once told me that he was incredibly proud because I’ve loved a lot of things in my life, but I’ve never really had a passion before. What I wonder is: can this passion of mine to move into the field of education policy/consulting really overcome my complete hatred for the trick that was played on me?

5 Responses

  1. Jason

    Hi,

    I’m not a TFAer, so I can’t pretend like I fully understand the issues you’re dealing with, but I am a fellow Americorps member and I work in an underperforming school in a 5th grade classroom. Many of the teachers I worked with quit. One of them was a TFA corps member. He taught English, and it was me and him in a classroom of the rowdiest 5th graders ever. And I’m guessing this is how it is with your class–my students’ skills ranged from a kindergarten reading level to a 4th grade reading level. So the teacher and I were confused half the time, trying to figure out what to do with these kids. They were totally unfocused, loud, and rude. It seemed like my teacher didn’t get very much support, either, and the people who were in charge of him didn’t have any valuable advice. I remember his “team leader” (that’s what he called himself, if I recall correctly) walking into the classroom a few times. He was barely older than I was, and he tried to assert his authority with the kids but they blew him off immediately, and he tried giving me and the teacher advice. Of course, none of it actually worked.

    This dragged on for another month. And then my TFA teacher quit. And as soon as he quit, the kids made a huge fuss about how much they missed him and whatnot, which drove me CRAZY because they treated him like **** when he was actually there.

    Anyways, I’m saying this because even though I don’t know you, I hope you stay. You are doing these kids such a huge service, and who knows, you could be the most important thing for their lives right now. If things aren’t working out, maybe you just need to mix things up to keep the kids engaged. Change the desk arrangement every week, turn lessons into games, hide in the closet and jump out as soon as they walk in…etc… anything, to keep them on their toes. Michelle Rhee had a horrible first year as a TFAer. And then she turned it around by coming up with creative, interesting lesson plans. Try to find ways to work around the system that’s set up. Or maybe you just need to bend a few rules.

    Either way, I bet you can turn things around, and if you stick through these two years, you’ll be so glad you did. And no one starts out as an awesome teacher, especially not at the type of schools TFA sends people to. Give yourself another chance. And remember not to take things too personally

  2. James

    Hi, I really like Jason’s comment and I felt 100% the same way you do right now when I was in my first year of teaching. when you say that a trick was played on you, what are you referring to? Thanks!

  3. Sam

    Personally, I have many issues with TFA so perhaps my input should be taken with a grain of salt. However, it seems to me that your passion, drive, and talents are not being put to their best use by TFA. If you’re not in a situation that is making the best of your abilities, are you really helping yourself OR others as much as you possibly could? I don’t believe so. The situation that your students are in is atrocious, but unfortunately, it doesn’t sound like it’s being improved that much by your presence. The best teacher in the world would likely have a minimal impact if put in the situation you are in. You could make a much larger impact on at-risk students in a different environment.

    I don’t think that recognizing this and acting upon it makes you a quitter; I think it makes you an independent thinker who makes the best decisions for yourself and your students.

  4. Moseis

    If I would have come to my current school as a first year teacher, I would have left education. Although the foolishness in education is like a tsunami, I am grateful that my first four years– (until a maniac took over for my first principal) in a very busy, high poverty, Title I school– was so fantastic.

    But, between both experiences, I now know why so many “excellent” teachers leave the field by the 5th year. The system wants all of you(us) to think it’s our fault. It’s not; it’s their fault. And who pays the highest price? Yeah, the kids.

  5. Go to:
    http://teachersdontsuck.blogspot.com/
    to see some of the real skinny on teaching. A profession being degraded to factory worker status.

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