Teachin' Spanish For America

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Jan 30 2011

Teach For…Shenanigans?

Before I start, I’d like to note that if I have to change my password every time I try and log in here (because I’m an ijit that doesn’t remember her password, but only for this one site), I’m going to be very grumpy at myself.

That being said, it’s time to update the larger world out there as to pre-Institute haps.  I’ve had some changes (read: complications) during this process.  I’d like to start by saying that Newark TFA office has been nothing but 100% helpful during the entire process.  Earnest emails of inquiry upgraded at one point to a panicked phone call, and they were helping me out at every turn.

The panic was a result of being COMPLETELY AND UTTERLY UNABLE to schedule a Spanish: Content Knowledge test anywhere within quite literally six hours of my house in Ithaca, my boyfriend’s house in New Jersey, or my parents’ house in Massachusetts.  “Why?!” I thought as I bashed my Spanish Content proof of Knowledge-seeking head against my desk.  Turns out that New Jersey at least, and I suspect much of the country, is in a shift between two Praxises (snobby voice was, in fact, activated for that word): the Spanish Content test and the Spanish: World Languages test.  So, in a sort of passive-aggressive way, NJBoE and ETS have said, of course, sure, they’ll accept the Content Knowledge exam…but they won’t offer it anywhere for me to take.  So a few phone calls were made, and I will be taking the (conveniently more expensive) World Languages exam which is offered on computers by appointment.  That came with its own new set of problems, namely that it’s offered for four days in February and the next test date is in freakin’ JUNE, and I thought I was signing up for March/April tests so I came really late to the game and there were NO seats left ANYWHERE so I’m taking it about 4.5 hours away, in a room above Penn Station in NYC, on a Monday.  Holy inconvenient Batman.

This brings a whole slew of other issues with it, for example the fact that this is a brand-new test and there is VERY little study material out there for it.  Even the ETS people are trying to sell me their $20 guidebook with no full-length tests or means of scoring myself. It’s shenanigans I tell you, and I won’t stand for it.  It also appears to be a much harder test than the previous one, specifically in its inclusion of several speaking and long-answer sections.  SO.  My strategy is to brush up on my essay and letter vocabulary (Sin otro particular, le despido atentamente…) and talk some to/at/with my hispanohablante friends.  And it’s in TWO WEEKS PEOPLE.  So yeah.  It has kind of pushed the Elementary Education: Content Knowledge exam down on the totem pole of Things To Worry About.

I also forgot to mention last time that there’s another test that I need to take, an over-the-phone Spanish oral skills test that I have yet to schedule but need to do soon.  I’m not really worried about it, but I hope I do well.

Institute packet coming in the mail soon!  I kind of want to get some of the swag on the TFA site (namely, the bag because my schoolbag broke and I can see using it while I teach anyway) but I don’t know what they give us as Institute.  Any CMs out there with some insight?


10 Responses

  1. aea107

    I’m kinda having some similar problems (but not as bad). Where I go to school in Western Mass also precludes finding convenient locations for things like Praxis testing and TFA interviews. I have to travel quite a distance to be at my scheduled 7:30 a.m. testing location. It, to be frank, sucks, and flights are too expensive for me to get to my extremely convenient DC home for just a weekend. I signed up for the test but am very concerned about the logistics. And, like you, I’m having trouble finding study material or information on the test I’m taking (Early Childhood Content Knowledge)… I think it’s also a new test. There’s no real info on TFAnet or anywhere online that I can find. I hope it’s not too hard… Good luck with everything!

    • heikemarie

      Yeah, it sounds like you’re having a pretty tough time of it. My dad lives just outside of Worcester so I’m not in the middle of nowhere (we used to live just south of Nashua NH, talk about the boonies!), like most of Western MA is ;) But luckily for me NYC ends up being like a 1.5 hour train ride from my boyfriends’…so I only have to get up at like 5! Ahaha. I even considered renting a car to get to everywhere I needed to be. Anyway, it is definitely encouraging that I’m not the only one having issues, and I guess I’m looking at it as the first mini-challenge before the *real* ones begin. At least the speaking test I have to take is over the phone.

      Please do keep me updated and I’m checking out your blog with regularity now :)

  2. justcallmemaestra

    First of all, i kept forgetting my password too, so I can totally relate. I just put a password that I normally use with a ! after it so that I would never forget. I figured I am excited about TFA, so an ! will be easy to remember. Cheesy, I know, but I haven’t had to change mine since!

    On a more serious note, I posted yesterday about the Praxis II, and I understand your frustrations there too. I had a very hard time finding a time slot open too, and I am going to have to miss a day of work because a Tuesday at 8:30am was the only appointment I could find in the next few months.

    In regards to the test, I am really disappointed in the lack of materials and information available about the test as well. I found the percentages that each section of the exam is weighed, but I have no idea how the magical three digit scores are calculated! I caved and bought ETS’s “Exam Study Guide” and there is a good amount of insight in it that may help you with the test. Also, you get some audio samples of responses of past test-takers so you can hear what a good response and a not-so-good response sounds like. There is a sample of the multiple choice questions in the guide, although it is a little shorter than on the actual exam. The computer-based nature is what also has me worried. I am sure we will both be fine, ¡ánimo! :)

    Buena suerte! Hope this helped!

    • heikemarie

      I actually saw your post yesterday and bookmarked it to read later because the “no comas ansias” is a familiar adage to me and made me smile :) I’m sure I’ll be reading it and posting soon…this German homework is not nearly as interesting.

      The question of how to score practice tests, while particularly bad with the World Languages tests, seems to be a theme among all the Praxis exams. ETS seems to guard their algorithms closely. It makes it SUPER hard to target what to study and how much to study, that’s for sure.

      I guess if you’re pleased with help you’ve received from the eBook, I might just buckle down and spend the extra $25.

      Regardless. Juntemos las fuerzas y ataquemos el Praxis II como miembros de TFA ;) Helpful knowing someone out there is going through the same, entonces mil gracias!

    • heikemarie

      Oh, and I’m going to try really hard to remember to post on Monday of the test so you have some insight into how it went!

      • justcallmemaestra

        Gracias y suerte! If I have any breakthroughs in the coming weeks (like if the method of scoring comes to me in a dream or something), I’ll let you know. ;)

  3. Erica

    Hi there,
    I’m a 2010 CM teaching foreign language in Greater New Orleans.
    A couple of things for you, first of all with the Spanish Praxis. I took the French content knowledge and it was really difficult, I’m not going to lie. I actually think you might be better off showcasing your skills with writing and speaking than doing 1/2 the test listening 1/2 proofreading/reading. The listening was very difficult as was the rest of the test. That being said, I didn’t even major in French but I do know that others who know more French than I do had a difficult time with it as well.

    And for the Elementary content knowledge, do not worry about it AT ALL. I was all worried and got 2 wrong on the whole test. Spend your time on Spanish and don’t worry about the El Content Test.

    Hope that helps!

  4. Erica

    Oh also, the ETS study guide for the French Content Knowledge was crap. I bought one and then went out and just bought a study guide for french in general and it was much more helpful. So don’t worry about them not having one.

    • heikemarie

      Thanks for all your feedback (and solidarity, haha). Definitely a lot to think about in the two weeks ahead!

  5. 1. So cool to see everyone interacting. Puts a smile on our face.

    2. About the passwords… you can check the “remember me” box on the sign-in page to help with this issue potentially.

    3. Blog on! (and keep spreading the word)

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