Bienvenido a Miami

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Jun 04 2011

Prepared?

After a year abroad as a public school EFL teacher, the time has almost arrived for me to say “再見 Asia” and “Hola, Miami.”

In preparation for the 2-year roller coaster ride that I’m about to embark upon, I saved up my vacation days for a 4-day weekend and am now enjoying the sweet, sweet fruits of my labor.  I’ve spent the past few days lounging around trying to remember how to speak and write coherent and grammatically correct English sentences.  Having lived in a non-English speaking country for the past year, this has proved more difficult that I expected as  I’m constantly confusing myself by mixing up Chinese and English grammar.  I also recently caught myself using the phrase “no negative positives” which I’m pretty sure doesn’t mean anything in either language.  So apologies in advance for any incoherent sentences in these next coming weeks.

Afraid I will be doing this much more often next year

All the goodbyes and “lasts” have got me thinking back to the beginning of the school year.  Despite my unique teaching situation,* I am positive that my year in front of the classroom has been invaluable in my education as an educator (you see what I did there?).  I’ve matured, learned an incredible amount about myself both as a person and an aspiring awesome teacher, and most importantly, learned just how much I have left to learn.  I can now speak to both my weaknesses and strengths – and I have an idea of exactly how much hard work it is going to take to overcome my weaknesses before they negatively manifest  in my future classroom.

That being said, I’m not even a social drinker of the TFA Kool-Aid.   A year in the classroom has made me increasingly skeptical of the effectiveness of TFA’s teacher training preparation, and just more skeptical in general.  Firstly, I can’t imagine having taken on a TFA assignment last year as I had originally planned — not to mention that I would’ve been teaching Special Education with no prior training or experience.

This doesn't have much to do with anything, I just don't like long blocks of text. But really, SqeezIts were rad

Did I think I could achieve my definition of success as a Special Ed teacher last year when I accepted the offer?   I 110% whole-heartedly really truly did.  Do I think that I could now, even after a year of starting to learn the ropes?  Definitely not.  I’d be in way over my head and dragging my students down with me.

I honestly feel that I would have done my students a great disservice as their Special Education teacher, struggling to climb the steep learning curves of classroom management and meaningful instruction.  While I don’t have any personal experience with Institute (yet) I can’t imagine that 4 weeks in the classroom is nearly enough to prepare inexperienced young people to become the effective, dynamic educators that they undoubtedly could be.

Without going into the details of some of TFA’s less-than-stellar aspects (mysterious attrition rates, rumored “favoritism” of corps members and  that the organization knowingly places Delta corps members in schools that use corporal punishment) I’m openly skeptical about the organization’s current role in the education debates and reforms that are happening throughout America.  I’ll wait to expand on these sentiments until I’m back in America.

However skeptical I am of TFA as an organization, I do agree with TFA’s mission to bring educational equality to the American public schools system.  I passionately believe that all children deserve access to nothing less than the best education our country can offer them — which begins with high-quality classroom teachers.

I’m incredibly thankful to be entering Institute with real, tangible classroom experience.  Granted, it’s only a year and boy have I got a lot to learn these next few years, but I’m hooked on teaching.  I’m excited for the opportunity to have my own classroom and work hard for a cause I truly believe in, supported by a team of like-minded and highly driven individuals.

I’ll let you know how the Kool Aid tastes once I make it to Miami in only a few short weeks.  In the meantime, I’d really be interested to hear the opinions of current corps members, alums, ex-corps members, critics, supporters and the unaffiliated in regards to anything TFA.   Please feel free to leave a comment below!

Just do like the monkey says.

* I’m technically an assistant to a full-time local teacher, meaning that I don’t have my own classroom and am not responsible for the classroom management or academic growth of my students.  My experience is similar to student teaching but sans the ongoing training or professional development.  Like I said, unique.

More on the differences between international education systems in a later post.  It’s gonna be a good one.

7 Responses

  1. Jess

    Like the post and your perspectives on the TFA Kool-Aid. I was going to teach English in Korea this coming year, but decided to skip it when I got into TFA. I’ll be in the Delta, as a matter of fact, and don’t think my school allows corporal punishment but am beyond mortified that some still do… What a world! Hope you have a great experience once you hit institute. Ours starts on Tuesday… :-)

    • Miss M

      That’s a big decision, but at least it was between two pretty awesome alternatives. The English boom is HUGE in NE Asia and currently the job market’s great for foreign teachers; just something to keep in mind for after TFA. :-)

      I’m glad to hear that your school doesn’t use corporal punishment, I can’t imagine having to deal with that myself as a teacher. I’d love to hear about your personal experience as a teacher in the region, do you have a blog or anything that you wouldn’t mind sharing? Thanks for your comment! Good luck at Institute and in the coming year!

  2. thelearningcurve

    I do like your post about the TFA Kool-Aid, but I do want to point something out about the placing of teachers in the Delta schools with corporal punishment. Although that is obviously a horrible characteristic of some of the schools into which TFA places teachers, some of those very same teachers are the ones actively trying to change that. For example, last year a 2007 CM finally got his school to change it’s corporal punishment rules; the school used to require a signed slip if you wanted your child to not be eligible to receive that sort of punishment, now they require a signed slip if you do want your child to be eligible. This is, of course, a very small difference, but it is a difference, and I’m glad that someone chose to fight for it.

    • thelearningcurve

      And I should also say that this is by no means that CM’s end-goal. It’s just a small victory toward abolishing corporal punishment in that school altogether, and then perhaps the rest of the region shortly thereafter.

    • Miss M

      Hi and thanks for your comment! WOW — that corps member’s accomplishment definitely does make a difference and is a huge contribution to ending corporal punishment in American schools. It’s always awesome and inspiring to hear of the positive impacts corps members are making.

      I’d imagine that TFA and its corps members are stuck between a rock and a hard place when it comes to this issue. I’m sure that the decision to continue working at a school for the sake of the students or to leave because of a strong, fundamental disagreement with its practices must be incredibly difficult for CM’s to make.

  3. G

    I lived in Miami all my life (until last year, when I was placed in San Antonio). If you want the lowdown on all things 305, let me know!

    I am not a drinker of the Kool-Aid either, but I’ve learned some really interesting things along the way…best of luck during Institute!

    • Miss M

      Hi, G!

      Thanks for your comment — I would seriously love any info on Miami / Institute / teaching / what you’ve learned anything!! I’ve never been down there and so I’m totally unfamiliar with the area, any suggestions for good neighborhoods?
      If you’ve got the time, feel free to drop me an email at maria.morrisson@gmail.com

      Have a great summer!!!!

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Region
Miami-Dade
Grade
Elementary School
Subject
Elementary Education

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