Learning As Leadership

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Sep 01 2011


Year one was like the blink of an eye. Of course at the time it didn’t feel so fast, but looking back, where did it go? Such a whirlwind of constant change, constantly being asked to do more with less, and constant uncertainty.

I was lucky. I was one of those Teach For America teachers who gets the perfect placement. Do I mean my school was perfect? No. What I mean is that it happened to be a perfect fit for me. I truly thank God for placing me exactly where I needed to be to make an impact and to learn and grow as a teacher.

The biggest blessing was the opportunity to teach 6th, 7th, AND 8th grade! As a new teacher, I can’t think of a more interesting experience. Getting to see firsthand the change that occurs, both academically and socially, throughout the middle school process is amazing. It also meant that, in our small school, I knew almost every single student. That level of intimacy and accountability was the best part of my first year.

I also was blessed to work in a school with two second-year corps members who supported me, encouraged me, and helped me feel at home. Halfway through the year, a first-year corps member joined our team, and we became known as the “Law Firm” by the veteran teachers at our school (the young, white teachers who often wore suits to work). Was the Law Firm an exclusive group of snooty know-it-all new teachers? Heck no. We seamlessly blended into our welcoming staff team, working together to make the year a success, and ultimately attain AYP.

Our principal, an outside-the-box, action-oriented leader, was pretty amazing. He allowed me to be creative, try new things, and learn from my mistakes.

After a tumultuous year (because of the environment of our school district), they decided to close our school. And that’s all I will say about that. :)

I’ve built lifelong bonds with most of my students and with the staff at my school, and I am eternally grateful for the experience to work with some of the best people I’ve ever met. I learned a lot. I failed a lot. I grew a lot. I survived.

You know it’s a good year when you only cry on the last day of school because it’s over. The first day of school, a student told me she was going to “make me cry like we made Ms. So-and-so cry.” Little did they know that the only tears from me would be on the last day as we said our goodbyes.

I am overwhelmed by having to start all over again at a new school. New teachers to meet, 100 new names to learn, new rules, new procedures, new personalities, moving 3 carloads of stuff in 100 degree heat up many flights of stairs. But if this year is anything like last year, then I am exactly where I am supposed to be. Somehow I was accepted by TFA, somehow I was placed in Saint Louis, and somehow I was at an amazing school last year. I know, even if it doesn’t feel like it now, that I am where I will make the greatest possible impact.

You hear so many horror stories from first-year teachers, or TFA teachers, who hate their placement and don’t feel they fit. Well I’m here to tell you that they aren’t all like that. Sure, there were bumps and heartaches along the way. Was I a perfect teacher? No! Was I even a good/great teacher? Probably not. But I am well on my way and more motivated than ever.

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    a Teach For America teacher’s blog

    St. Louis
    Middle School

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