Teachin' Spanish For America

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Jan 17 2011

Praxis and Interviews and Action Lists, oh my!

It hasn’t been all that long since I’ve updated, but I am enthusiastically avoiding reading and organizing my thesis (though I AM excited that it recently was accepted into the Nation Conference of Undergraduate Research!), and I thought it would be nice to update the larger world out there on the post-acceptance process.  There’s SO much information (and misinformation) about the application and interview process, and a whole bunch about the experience of teaching as part of Teach For America, but what’s going on with accepted Corps members (CMs, I suppose I have to call them now) after accepting the offer and before gallivanting off to Institute?  Welp, we’re not just treading water over here, from what I can see.  I know I’ve got lots to do before heading into the Big Apple with everything figured out.

First off, turns out the New Jersey Board of Education doesn’t just take Teach For America and my accrediting institution (wassup Ithaca College) at its word that I am completely qualified to be responsible for hundreds of bright little minds and bodies.  I feel that this is a completely legitimate skepticism to have, but it means that I have some studying to do.  Unsurprisingly, I’m taking the Praxis II exam for Spanish Content Knowledge.  And since we’re not sure where I will be needed, I need to also take the Elementary Education Content Knowledge exam.  There’s also a Spanish oral proficiency exam that I need to take.  The Spanish tests I am not very worried about (but please do check back to see if I regret that assertion), because it’s what I’ve been doing for four years and what I was doing for 6 months last semester in Argentina: speaking, loving, and understanding Spanish and Hispanic language and culture.  I’ve got the ETS Official guide on it just in case, and I’ll give that a lookover in the coming weeks.  Otherwise, I’m all set with that.  In theory.  But what is going on with Elementary content?  Turns out it’s a multiple choicer about English, science, math, and history.  English I have no worries about (hey, B.A. in English Literature), but the others, a little worry is seeping in. I’m great at history, but I haven’t taken a single history class since I got here thanks to AP exams, not including Argentine History in Argentina.  Science and math…yeah, about that.  So I might have to do a tiny bit of studying.  The good news is that from what I’ve researched, the test doesn’t really have a chance to get too in depth with any of it since it’s going for breadth.

Okay, so.  I pass my Praxis exams and I’m all set to teach wherever TFA sets me, amiright?!  No, I am not right.  NJBoE is still unconvinced about my teaching credentials, because I have admittedly very little background in teaching theories, learning theories, class management theories, pedagogy in general…you get the idea.  I’m still understanding where New Jersey is coming from, but what’s a girl to do?  It seems that a girl is to achieve alternative certification while she is teaching.  During my first year of the commitment, I’ll be taking night classes at Seton Hall University (one of the schools I am seriously considering for law school, incidentally) towards this end.  The cool thing is that after the first year, I’ll be certified to teach anywhere in the state of New Jersey.  Woop!

OKAY, Heike, we get it.  Take the Praxis (Praxises?  Praxes?)  and do your certification and TFA will set you up somewhere that can use your apparently no-longer-doubtful teaching and Spanish skills.  Hm.  Still nope.  Turns out that Teach For America will merely (and I say merely with many qualifications and with a very literal use of the word) be serving as a conduit between myself and the various school districts in order to scare up some interviews.  That’s right, for the first part of our relationship, TFA is the metaphorical pimp to my metaphorical…well, you get the idea.  Point it, I still have to do interviews rather than simply being plopped somewhere.  I don’t mind this too much–I completely relate to principles/schools/districts/charter schools wanted to make sure that I would be a good fit for their students and staff.  Also importantly, I don’t completely dislike interviews.  The amount of prep that TFA makes us do (lots of Powerpoints and “reflection exercises”) is kind of fun in a geeky-organizational kind of way, and the thought of interviewing gives me an adrenaline rush that makes all of this real for me.  I just hope that I have a productive Early Interview day so that I have a little stability in my life come June!

It is only after clearing ALL of these hurdles that someone will entrust me with kids.  However broken our educational system is, whatever problems we as America have with teacher quality and retention, it’s comforting that they won’t just hand the precious cargo to any recent college graduate who expresses interest.  At least there’s that.


2 Responses

  1. elsa

    do you have interviews yet?! you’re way more on the ball than (it seems) I am for the Delta…I’m just focusing on passing my Praxises (I get great joy out of pronouncing it praxis-eez). and yes, all of the hoops are overwhelming.

    • heikemarie

      I was hoping other people were calling them Praxises like that too, because it’s delightful. No interviews yet, but we were told we could be getting some calls about it as early as February…”Early” Interview Day isn’t until May, though, so I think I just managed to give off the impression of being more on the ball that I actually am. Listing things is just my way of saying WHOA THERE STUFF TO DO, SUP? Overwhelming indeed, but it’s better than sitting and waiting around!

      Hope your hoops are going smoothly, and congrats (and a special one for heading into the Delta–totally cool and admirable)!

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