Musings of a veteran teacher joining TFA

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Jul 04 2012

Not a surprise.

TFA Institute: where a holiday is actually not a holiday, but a workday. Sigh.

I would’ve liked to get my 2 lesson plans done early.  Yeah, we changed things too many times to be able to do that.  I wasted at least an hour today because the objectives don’t always go together and I’ve started and someone says, “Hey! These two objectives should go together so you’re doing this one instead.”  That happened twice today.  So, no holiday for me because I couldn’t get ahead.  Staying up until 11:30 finalizing the two lesson plans on the 4th of July.  I had a lunch break and a dinner break and that’s it.  This isn’t real life lesson plans, that’s fer shure.  And I’ve been known for my ability for lesson planning in a real school setting.  Vision setting?  Blah. Whatevs.  It’s called a unit plan!   It REALLY annoys me that as an educator in the non TFA classroom, you are assessed on how your students do on tests as well as how engaged they are.  During our lesson planning, the vision setting and assessment are really what we get feedback on.  Your lesson could be as boring as sitting watching paint dry and they don’t evaluate that.  They want good classroom management, but they don’t tell you how to engage your classroom.  That REALLY annoys me.  What you are being assessed on as a regular classroom teacher is not aligned with what we’re being assessed on (with the exception of assessments) for TFA lesson plans.  Resources are okay, but it’s almost frowned on in our group to share resources (like worksheets, powerpoints, etc.)  We haven’t got much comments on it positively or negatively, but it’s almost been given like we’re doing something bad, and that’s not realistic at all.  You MUST coplan with people all the time.  I just don’t get it.

Oh, and I didn’t appreciate my CMA asking if we could get “our lesson plans in as early as possible” so he didn’t have to do 30 lesson plan feedbacks tomorrow.  Give us more time to work on it, and that’s something we could do.  However, I didn’t any time off today at all and I haven’t had much time to do lesson planning while in school.  So… tttttttpppppbbbbbtttttt.  I want to tell my CMA, you got to enjoy your holiday.

I also understand the benefit of practicing.  How can you practice when you haven’t finalized what you’re doing the lesson two days hence?

Oh, and I know when you say “I only want a rough draft in” you actually mean that you want it as close to possible to perfect so we do’t have to spend more time on it.  Rough draft really means get it done right the first time.

I realize I’m bitching.  There’s been a ton of wonderful things I’ve learned the last couple of days that I think will truly make a positive impact in my classroom.

I’m just not feeling it right now.

I am wound up, annoyed and frustrated.  I had to get this out before I went to bed.  My roommate has it worse than me, I do have to say.  She’s elementary ed, so she’s got something like three mini-lessons to create per day (Six due tomorrow).

This week is going by faster than last week. Yay.  2.5 weeks left.

14 Responses

  1. Bella

    When I went through Institute a few years ago, I took everything with a grain of salt. I had also taught prior to joining TFA, so I ditched their lesson plans on day 1 in the classroom. They’re not sustainable. Keep doing what you’re doing…you’re almost done!

  2. nonTFAtxteacher

    Keep your head up high. I’m a elementary school teacher in Houston. I don’t teach at an inner city school but it is a title school. Just realize that what you’re doing in TFA such as LP’s, won’t necessarily be the same when you start teaching in the fall. Just know that your standards must match your objectives in order to keep you on track and to let the students know what they’re learning. Haven’t really read your other posts but I hope that you do have a better experience teaching for real in the fall. I am sorry that y’all couldn’t experience the Fourth of July. That’s a shame for TFA making y’all work.

    • oniongirl

      It’s all good! The frustration of the 4th lead to a breakthrough on the 5th. I posted about it as well. Thanks for your well wishing!

  3. Thanks for the post. Great read.

  4. Pat

    I was never a veteran teacher, but in last fall, my first year, I found myself with the same frustrations. The school wanted things I didn’t know how to provide. It will get a little better one fall professional development starts up, but it’s for sure an area that’s lacking. Good post, and hang in there!

  5. SMH


    Out of curiosity, would you share why you joined TFA? As I’m trying to decide whether to apply or not, I want to hear from CMs who taught prior to TFA.

    • Curious

      Like Oniongirl, I thought I would learn how to be a better teacher. I also thought it would connect me to a network of really wonderful, dedicated teachers and I’ve always found my colleagues to be my best resource. Expanding that network seemed like a smart move.

      I can’t say that TFA itself is doing anything to make me a better teacher. As for giving me access to a network of solid educators who can serve as a resource…that remains to be seen. I have met some wonderful people but that’s not the same thing.

    • oniongirl

      I do go in greater detail about the WHY in my very first post, but the main reasons are that a) I wanted to get training on data management b) many of my teacher friends are TFA and they are wonderful, hardworking teachers that I greatly appreciate their thoughts and c) it would allow me to get a Master’s that would more or less be paid for. I always said if I had known about TFA after I graduated I would have joined. A corp member said, “You still can”. I’m not regretting it at all. I knew I’d be frustrated some days. I needed to find a way to work smarter, not as hard as I have and I do believe I found it today (one day later).

  6. Curious

    As another experienced teacher who is currently going through Institute, I’m curious what “wonderful things” you’ve learned. So far, I haven’t gotten a single useful thing out of Institute. In fact, there’s quite a bit I see being taught that’s bad practice and/or just downright wrong…and it makes me angry.

    • oniongirl

      Hmm. I’m sorry you’re not finding a single thing that’s useful. That’s really too bad and I can understand why you’d be resentful of Institute and maybe even TFA.
      I have had a great curriculum specialist. She is an amazing, clear, helpful, and a little intimidating. She’s been teaching as long as I have. She’s been with TFA as long as that as well. What she’s done is regularly model things that I haven’t had the balls to try. The BCM I like, and I’ve seen it work with seniors in high school, so I liked practicing. She gives us exemplars, and makes us practice it regularly. I feel it will definitely help me be a better teacher.
      There’s some good ideas on common core, but I couldn’t give you specific examples. I really like some of the work I’ve made with team members.
      I also wanted to use this time to practice the things my school wants me to implement, namely Kagan structures. So, it’s been good for that, I suppose.

  7. Meg

    Have you gotten a TAL rubric rating from your CMA yet? I ask because there is a section on there evaluating you based on your students’ engagement? If you haven’t seen it mentioned yet I’d say it’s likely because (a) your CMA hasn’t noticed it as an issue in your room or (b) if a teacher is struggling with management they usually focus on getting the students on task before getting them excited, or joyful, as I think it’s worded on TAL

    • oniongirl

      I realized that after you had sent this, that the TAL rubric was on there. It was never gone over, so I hadn’t read it specifically. I’m still not exactly sure what I’m supposed to look for, to be honest. His focus really hasn’t been that, but more on the vision and the assessment. I would guess to say that when you help other people on this, you probably help them where you yourself was weakest. I’m making an inference about that though. Thanks for your input.

  8. Oniongirl,

    I’ve been reading your blog since you started, so I have to say, awesome job! Your blog came around at an interesting time for me: It’s around the time when I started to think maybe I should apply to TFA. Mind you, I haven’t been teaching for near as long as you, so I don’t have the experience and wisdom behind me. Nonetheless, it is interesting (and valuable) to hear from a CM who has been teaching for quite awhile.

    Keep it up!

    • oniongirl

      I think that if you’re willing to put aside those habits that could be a negative, then go for it! There’s great opportunities available for TFA members, even ones with little to no experience, and you’d see it during Induction. The drive is there for all TFA members, and I appreciate the overall feeling most of the time. The benefits greatly outweigh the negatives by a landslide. Feel free to send me questions. I’ll be honest without trying to sugar coat things.

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