Teachin' Spanish For America

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Jul 15 2011

Oh hey, Friday of Institute Week 3

Oh hey, Teach For Us…

Long time no see.  I’m not going to write about weeks 2, 3, and 4.  First thing I’m going to do is post a reflection I found on the computer from the first week of Institute.  This is dated as July 1, 2011:

I am currently sitting in a session that is, once again, asking me to reflect.  So, I think that I will do so—albeit perhaps not in the way that the session facilitator intended.

Let’s talk about what’s happened so far this week.  If you look at many of the blogs here from the NYC Institute (and it could be other ones as well, I don’t know), you may notice a general theme.  I don’t really know about last year’s Institute experience, but I would like to talk for a moment about frustration.

First a caveat: This is only the first week.  The things that we are doing are reasonable, the amount of time spent in sessions is reasonable, and the amount of time we are given to complete tasks is (theoretically) reasonable.  If this were all I had to deal with, I would have gotten so much sleep this week.

Instead, the first day (Sunday) we didn’t do anything until late evening.  Then Monday, the same thing.  The programming on these two days was entirely abstract and overarching, about Teaching As Leadership and Vision.  I am all for these lessons, but I think they could have been condensed into a day.  Also, a lot of the information is exactly what was presented in the pre-Institute work, except that the pre-Institute work is not ever, ever mentioned.  It’s like we never even did it.  And then, more or less, the first half of Tuesday was the same.  That’s three half days (comfortably a full day).

The pulse of the CMs was getting restless until we started doing things.  We got Vision Planning Templates, Management Plan Templates, Investment Plan Templates, and (again theoretically) Lesson Plan Templates.  We sat through sessions, trusting the TFA machine to give us information in a session called “Investment Plan” to create ours, which was due the same night.  Turns out, our trust was misplaced.  This is where a large part of the frustration comes in.

Between constant room changes, assignment changes, differentiated sessions (such that any PK-2 teacher teaching literacy has not yet learned how to write a lesson plan!), there is the simple fact that we sit through information for an hour and a half only to come out of the other end with no real help, “exemplars” or support during the writing process.

The CMA sessions have been the most helpful so far, even though a large portion of the sessions are spent addressing miscommunications rather than supporting independent practice and so we “waste” a lot of time on clarification.

The end result is handing in a lot of work that is not good.  Now, I know a lot of us as CMs are grappling with our perfectionism as we create lesson plans, etc.  I want to assure you that this is not what I am talking about.  I am talking about not being transferred the skills necessary to perform the tasks.  Owning that ignorance and attempting to rectify it using the written materials we have access to is very, very time consuming.

Let’s take a look at the positives so far this week.  For the most part the staff, with a few exceptions, are very nice [...]


Ironically, this is where I stopped.

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