Jun 25 2012

The power of negative thinking

Reading the great blog posts by new corps members give me a real insight into what they are, and are not, being taught at institute.  I really appreciate that these new TFAers are willing to write about their thoughts and failures, and I hope that my re-posting some of their comments does not discourage any of them from continuing to write posts.

My goal isn’t really to ‘prove’ that TFA training is very flawed, but, as a teacher, myself, to teach these new TFAers alternative ways to interpret what they have already experienced.  By knowing that there even is an alternative can enable the new teachers to become better equipped to teach this fall.

The first post I’d like to highlight is called ‘We have been blessed with an opportunity to demonstrate resiliency.’ and can be found here.  This teacher had a sobering experience where he/she gave a reading assignment that was way above the students’ heads.  The students could not comprehend the story and, of course, failed the assessment.

When a class fails at something, it is a good opportunity for the teacher to reflect about what caused that failure.  To me, the biggest lesson learned is that students will not be able to progress if their teachers don’t have a good sense of exactly where the starting ability level is so the teacher can assign things that are just a little harder than where the students are, so the students will not be frustrated and can experience some success to build from.  Though this goes against, I guess, the idea of ‘have high expectations,’ the experience proves that maybe ‘have high expectations’ works better in theory than in reality.

But this is not what this TFAer seems to have learned from this.  Instead he/she follows the TFA playbook to focus on ‘investment,’ another thing that I think is a waste of time at best, and counterproductive at worst.

I’ve been pulling my kids out one on one and asking them what they want out of life and out of summer school. I’ve got kids that want to be lawyers and singers and mechanics. And with each one of them, we’ve sat down and talked about what it’s going to take to get there. I’ve got a girl who wants to do social work in Uganda. Uganda! So I took these kids, and I told them all, individually, the same thing: “Listen. I see where you want to go. You can get there. I can get you there. [emphasis added] But I’m gonna shoot you straight. It’s gonna be tough. So tough. We’re going to have to work hard and focus every day. But if you can give me that, if you can prove to yourself that you’ve got what it takes to both work hard and be smart, then you can go wherever you want to go. You can be whoever you want to be.”

And you know what the crazy thing is? They believe me. My kids believe me! I can see it in their faces. They’re buying in. They want this, they want to go to college, they want to succeed. And when I hear that, it lifts me up. I get so excited.

It is hard for me to explain why this paragraph worries me so much.  Of course it is good for kids to have goals.  It is not that it is bad to talk about ambition, but when the teacher has picked an inappropriate reading passage that everyone failed, maybe this is not the first priority.  Kids can have all kinds of goals, but if teachers think that low expectations is what got them in the hole and that high expectations will get them out of the hole, then those teachers don’t really understand.  And it is the main job of the institute to give those new TFAers a realistic and practical ‘mindset.’

I also saw a very ‘real’ and revealing video on a post here.  I hope that my attention to this video does not embarrass any of the participants.  If they continue to make videos like this, I’d be willing to give my analysis which I hope they think helps them to be more successful.  If they would prefer that I not analyze, then just let me know.  In the video about twelve Delta corps members are interviewed about their experience so far.

(Note:  The original video was taken down and replaced with an edited one so the times I reference will be a bit different)

I think the most telling comments were from the guy who began speaking at 3:52.  His students did not do their essays so he gave it for homework.  Then they didn’t do it for homework.  His analysis of this is that “they’ve never had anyone say ‘hey, you didn’t complete this and you’re gonna do it again’. …  No one has taught them.  No one has expected them to do that.”  This is an assumption about all the teachers that these students have ever had.  And it is not true.  Thinking it is true implies that the achievement gap was caused by low expectations, and this belief will not help someone be an effective teacher.

At 9:42 the same guy, and again I am not trying to pick on anyone here — please believe me, shows that he has really internalized the tragically oversimplified TFA mindset.  “I think the biggest challenge in my classroom is investment.  …  getting them connect that this summer experience is about creating pathways to opportunity.”

This over emphases is so wrong to me that when I first started hearing about it a few years ago, and recognized how unhelpful that was for new TFAers, it actually was one of the very first real blog post I wrote four years ago, which you can read here.

I worry that corps members are so stuck in the TFA ‘mindset’  (Kool Aid, anyone?) that they seem unable to step outside and look at what they’ve experienced objectively and think, “Uh oh.  Maybe the TFA way isn’t going to work.”  It is time for TFAers to have real discussions about the limited usefulness of focusing on high expectations and investment and focus, instead, on learning to accurately assess where the students are and to create lessons that enable the students to progress a bit each day from where they were.

40 Responses

  1. Marie

    I love the youthful enthusiasm and remember that feeling well. I was 23 years old, fresh out of college, and going to save the world! The difference I see in my young self and the TFA members in the video is that I realized that I was inexperienced and that I didn’t know everything. I had no one saying, “You are special! You are going to do what veteran teachers have not been able to do! Your drive will cover your inexperience!” I knew that I had tons to learn and that those veteran teachers were going to be an asset to me. When youthful enthusiasm runs unchecked, you get guys, like the one at 3:52, who think sending those essay questions home, day after day, is going to sort things out. He doesn’t have the experience or the humility to step back and ask, “Why aren’t my students doing what I’ve asked them to do?” He sees it as a power struggle that he is, come hell or high water, going to win. Where is the learning in that? Anyone, with any inborn teaching ability knows that power struggles blow up, leaving no one encouraged and accomplished. 3:52-guy’s students are not going to complete those essay questions, no matter how many nights he sends them home. Why should they? He’ll be much more successful if he eases up on his “data concerns” and builds relationships with students and the content. But hey, who am i to say? I’m just one of those veteran teachers, painted with a broad brush, as being unable to get the job done.

  2. yoteach

    Interesting post, Gary. I agree with you that many of these mindsets are off-base, and the CMs are too quick to turn to sexy explanations like investment when the answer is really that they are making assessments too rigorous. Such an explanation does not mean our expectations are lower, only that we realize we can’t hold them to a bar in the first week, we need to scaffold and backwards plan how we will get them to that very same bar. My point is, I think your reading a bit too much into this. I would be surprised if these students CMA’s didn’t offer very similar feedback when they reflected on their lessons.

    During institute last year, I once tried to use excerpts from Siddhartha to explain the difference between Hinduism and Buddhism. It was of course way to rigorous, not because my students weren’t capable of reading Siddhartha, but because such a difficult text is an inefficient means of helping students understand the basic tenets of a religion: it instead helps them enrich and explore their understanding after they’ve shown mastery of its basic principles. When my lesson plopped, me, my CMA, and my school director (who unfortunately happened to be sitting in) were in universal agreement: I emphasized high rigor instead of mastery of the objective (to describe the differences between Hinduism and Buddhism). From my experience, institute really doesn’t teach you to focus on investment until after you’ve taught the information in an engaging and effective way and students did not mater it because they were off-task or indifferent. It’s not the only trick up institute and TFA’s sleeve. But for reasons very understandable to me, it is the main thing CMs like to blog about.

    • “I would be surprised if these students CMA’s didn’t offer very similar feedback when they reflected on their lessons. ”

      Thank you!

      One person (or even 12 of the 800 at Delta Institute), who has been in TFA for two weeks, cannot be held accountable to represent TFA in its entirety. I know personally the CM in this video, and his CMA, and I work at his Institute. I don’t think it’s fair to take this video and make blanket assumptions about what we’re trying to teach incoming CMs. If we look at Institute like any other school, we have to realize that students (CMs) come in with certain perspectives about themselves and their students. We have to realize that people have selective hearing when they want it (like our students) and that mastering an objective (like how investment works with planning, management, and appropriate rigor) takes repetition and time.

      • Gary Rubinstein

        Caroline,
        I think you’re saying that the institute did not teach them (or imply to them) that kids are behind because of low expectations and that high expectations will catch them up. This guy just heard what he wanted to hear and came up with that himself. If that is the case, then my critique of the comments should serve as a nice assessment for him and give you information about how well he is understanding what you are attempting to teach him. Sounds like you are saying he needs some remediation on the true causes of achievement gap and the sorts of things that chip away at it, and the sorts of things that just sound nice (have high expectations, get students invested) but might be too simplified to be useful.
        But since the Teaching as Leadership first two principles are ‘set big goals’ and ‘invest students and families’, I kind of think that he did get the basic idea of what you taught him. Maybe he doesn’t yet understand all the nuance to those principles, but he does at least understand the broad idea.
        Are you guys not following the TAL?

  3. Inverness (@Inverness)

    Makes sense that corp members would be — can I be frank? — arrogant enough to think they can succeed when better, more experienced teachers didn’t.

    As a former “bright young thing,” I was fed the same lies: I would succeed where the older, unionized (yep, I was told there were problems with the union) teachers never could, because they accept failure, use traditional, outdated methods, etc, etc. Just praise the kids enough, set high expectations (buzz word then was rigor).

    Turns out the kids saw through the excessive praise, and many read way below grade level, and I had no idea what to do with the Special Ed students thrown in for “inclusion” purposes.

    The narrative was the same (I am not from TFA, but I was a young tenure-free scab who taught in the Bronx, so was treated in a similar way). It took me years to unlearn the lousy pedagogy drilled into me, and realize that I was, for my first three years, not very effective.

    Time for some humility, TFA-ers. And I am not implying it’s your collective fault: when you’re so young (22!), there’s much to learn, and teaching is much too complex to master over a 2 year, let alone 5-week training period. Not to mention the propaganda to which you are subjected. I am still teaching, and think I’m rather good. But it took a lot of experience, listening to the wisdom of others, and humble pie to get there.

  4. Tee

    Wow. I feel really bad for the young man who was for some reason taught to use Behavioral Narration on students over the age of eight.

    • Why? Behavioral narration works like a charm for my juniors and seniors.

      • Tee

        Is that sarcasm?

        Besides, most well-behaved students I know would not want attention called to their rule-following. In fact, many would stop following the rules if attention was going to be called to their behaviors.

        • Nope, genuine question. Behavioral narration works quite well for me, and for most of the teachers who use it at my high school. It also worked well for my eighth graders at Institute. I think it can be effective, as long as you make it your own. (For example, I only use it during key transitions and practice times, not every thirty seconds like BMC recommends.)

          • Tee

            In retrospect, I think you’re right – if you are able to make it your own and make it effective, then I guess it can work, and I was probably too quick to disregard it. I think the problem is when a new teacher comes in and says to a bunch of high school students, “Jodie is sitting in her seat, David has his pencil out..” If you don’t have rapport with the kids, I think it’s at high risk of failing.

          • I find in my own experience that putting names to behaviors is very effective with older students, as they are not always mindful of what they are doing (and the ones who are behaving well are not often aware of how much a teacher appreciates and notices that). But I also find it to be more effective and more developmentally appropriate in most cases when not done aloud to the entire room.

  5. Jack

    Gary,

    After watching this video, I’m a little dismayed at the arrogance, presumption, and implied veteran-teacher-scapegoating displayed by the Ellen Page-look-alike at 5:28. She says that she’s “angry” and “frustrated” at the fact that her summer school students lack the ability to do percents, multiplication, long division, etc.

    So who or what caused this problem?

    Well, according to this 23 year-old, she knows for sure—after her first 3 days ever as a teacher, and just 3 days of being acquainted with these students—that it’s the the “school system” and the “individuals”(veteran teachers) who have failed them, and thus are provoking her to “feel angry for the first time… not anger AT them, but anger FOR them… ”

    Who or what implanted this conviction as her immediate default mindset when she’s faced for the first time ever with academically deficient students?
    The Institute? The Institute’s instructors? The Institute’s literature, training videos? What?

    Now, it’s possible that these students may have had one or more bad teachers, and that this reality played a part in their to have to attend summer school. However, why does she instantly assume that this is the first and only possible explanation and/or the appropriate initial response of an educator in her shoes?

    I have taught summer school, as well as off-track remediation classes (“intercession”) at year-round schools (which are the equivalent of “summer school” at schools with a year-round calendar).

    Like this CM, I was faced with children who were not on grade level in their reading, writing, math, etc. … and guess what? My first knee-jerk reaction was not rage and finger-pointing at their teachers (educators whom—in the case of Ms. TFA—she has never even met, and of whom, she has no direct knowledge whatsoever… of their effectiveness, dedication, hard work, passion, etc… or any lack thereof on their part, as I fully concede that it’s possible the kids’ teachers may bear some responsibility for their academic problems.)

    Unlike the CM in this video, I actually was familiar with these students’ teachers—brilliant, hard-working educators, by the way—and consulted with them before and during the the weeks of summer school (and its year-round equivalent). Believe it or not, I discovered that the fault did not, in any way, lay with their teachers.

    So then what WERE the factors that led to their sitting in summer school, and not outside playing like their classmates—you know, (SARCASM ON) the ones who weren’t “failed” by their veteran teachers, or were able to somehow overcome their lousy veteran teachers and yet still manage to do well? (SARCASM OFF)

    (I mean, if it’s incompetent teaching that led to these kids being there, why weren’t these kids’ entire classes, or the majority of their classes also inside in my classroom?)

    Well, some of my students were… well… they were simply not as bright as their classmates, and some even suffered from mild learning disabilities. No matter how hard the teacher and students work, there is a limit to the academic progress these kids can make… though I made sure to do whatever I can to help them reach their potential in the few weeks I had with them.

    Some came from homes and neighborhoods of such dysfunction and soul-killing poverty that it would blow your mind, or fill you with…

    … anger…

    Yeah, THAT is where some of MY anger WAS, IS, and ALWAYS WILL BE focused, but I don’t want to get into that here. Like Ms. TFA, in some cases, I felt “anger for” these students, not “anger at” them… but, as I’ve just stated, I had a different focus for some of that anger.

    In addition, some of them had missed from 30-60 days of school. In this case, unlike Ms. TFA and her reaction, I did “feel anger at” these students, or more specifically, at their parents for their chronic truancy, as well as the impoverished conditions that often is the cause of truancy—i.e. having to babysit younger siblings, etc.

    (As Gary and others have written about, consideration of such negative influences such a chronic truancy, poverty, gang influences, etc. are verboten at TFA, as they conflict with the “No Excuses’ dogma that pervades that institution.

    Gary, weren’t modules dealing with this once included, but later dropped from the Institute? As I recall, the reason was that it caused some privileged CM’s to write—in their course evaluations—that such considerations depressed them or made them feel guilty? Yeah… my farts make more sense that anyone who says or thinks this.)

    And yeah, some (a minority, but definitely SOME) of those kids brains worked just fine, and thus, could be out riding bikes with their similarly-gifted friends.

    Unfortunately, during the regular school year, they simply were defiant, lazy, disruptive in class, and just plain determined to do as little work/learning as possible in the classroom, let alone complete any of the homework assigned to them.

    On that point, here’s a great article from a summer school teacher (not me):

    http://www.laweekly.com/2007-08-16/news/ferris-bueller-s-off-day/

    In it, there’s a great quote from one of his students:

    “ ‘It’s not the teachers’ or principal’s fault if students don’t graduate. If we’re lazy and don’t do the work, it’s our fault,’ said Samantha, and her sentiment was repeated dozens of times.”

    You cannot force apathetic, defiant children to care about school and apply themselves. Similarly, you cannot force their parents to care about school, and work with teachers in enforcing such requirements as finishing homework, studying hard on tests, attending school.

    When it comes to kids bound for Summer School, both the students and their parents are informed months ahead of time—i.e. as early as the preceding Fall—that, if the kids don’t make a 180-degree change, they will be attending summer school next year. Very often, in spite of these multiple warnings throughout the school year, neither the parent nor the student does a damn thing in response.

    Does that mean the teacher “failed them”, and should be the focus of some 23 year-old novice teacher’s “anger”?

    Come on!

    In one case, I telephoned the father of one of my more uncooperative summer school students. I got this response—the same one that this parent had earlier given to his child’s regular teacher. Before slamming the phone down, he screamed at me:

    “LOOK JUST DO YOUR F—IN’ JOB AND DON’T EVER F—IN’ CALL ME AGAIN!!!”

    At that point, it’s “GAME OVER”… for this child, at least. He knows he can do nothing, and learn nothing, and no one will hold him accountable. (while, of course, his teachers WILL BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE… but that’s another story.)

    My advice to Ms. TFA is to contact the teachers of the children in her class—I’m guessing this is both possible and allowed—and try and get input from them as to what strategies she can use to reach them, what their strengths are, what their weakness are, what their parents are like, the best way to approach those parents while enlisting their collaboration, etc. …

    Who knows? Perhaps those teachers are as bad as she assumes. Then again, perhaps they’re not.

    She should do the same thing with her students’ parents.

    (Also, if the subject of this post is, indeed, reading this, I want you to know that I mean that “Ellen Page-look-alike” line as a compliment as, in the opinion of many—and it’s also the premise of the new Woody Allen movie she’s starring in—the real Ellen is quite a hottie ;) )

    Peace.

    Jack

    • Tee

      OMG. http://unityinvariety.teachforus.org/2012/06/25/first-day/

      “I don’t think I will ever understand how another teacher can sleep at night when they know that they are doing their students such an injustice.”

      • Yeah, that one really bugged me. Wow. One word: hubris

    • Bob

      To be fair, I don’t think the anger was focused on the current teacher(s), as evidenced by the students being so far behind. I would be angry and frustrated as well. Why were the students allowed to advance three or four grades without learning the basics of those grades?

      This is not about students who for one reason or another have had a bad year and fallen behind. It’s about students that were allowed to pass previous grade levels without being taught what was necessary to move forward. The “system” failed them years ago. One grade level is supposed to prepare one for the next. It should be obvious to anyone that previous teachers, schools, or policies set them up for failure years ago.

      It doesn’t take a genius to know that if someone never attended grades one through three, they will not be prepared for grade four. The same is true if these students are allowed to advance grade levels without learning the necessary skills that are supposed to be taught at those levels.

      Who passed these kids? who set the bar so low years ago that they can’t even comprehend a basic sentence today? Those are the people who fudged the numbers so that THEY looked good, got funding, or whatever else, at the expense of the students, and the expense of the country.

      Now, I am angry. I am angry FOR THE CHILDREN.

      Also, try to tell ME I’m wrong to be angry and not to “worry my pretty little head” over what I am obviously too inexperienced to understand. (Raging denigrating sexism also makes me angry, and I’m a man.)

  6. James

    Gary,

    Spot on, again. TFA sees ‘investment’ as the magic bullet.

    I still remember how I watched a You Tube video at Institute from a teacher who gave essay-lengthy book reports every week to sixth graders. I thought I would do the same from week one, and boy did it not work. Why? I didn’t scaffold the assignment, and my students had no idea how to write an essay-length book report.

    Perhaps, it isn’t that no ‘lazy’ teacher in the past has not told these kids to do their homework, but simply that these students need support in answering an essay question — a task that is complicated for many postgraduate students, let alone K-8 students.

    • Unless you have worked or designed for or at Institute, there is no concrete backing behind the statement, “TFA sees ‘investment’ as the magic bullet.” And if you have or do work at Institute, I’m confused why you are writing this in a blog post instead of giving direct feedback to the people above you, or changing your own job.

      I think what you mean is “CMs who have been at Institute for two weeks seem to interpret a mass of extremely complex and often overwhelming information to currently, at this moment, pinpoint investment as a major contributor to student outcomes.”

      I also think you mean to realize that when we learn something new, we are quick to grab anything to blame or to fix. In this case, teachers might have had a session about investment earlier that day and are now thinking about it.

      No one can learn to be a great teacher in a week, or two weeks, or even a year. There is no guarantee that any method of teaching to teach will result in success. None. And TFA is largely aware of that. As a CMA, I am completely aware of that. I am not an excellent teacher, but I’m doing as much as I can every day to ensure that I am getting better. I think any teacher prep program anywhere shares that.

      Last, when it comes to considering veteran perspectives, if you and others reading aren’t aware: all Institute schools have faculty advisors, who are current veteran teachers that observe more than the CMAs do and offer community and context for teachers on a daily basis.

      At large, all of these comments are valid on first impression, but are severely missing information and context for where these CMs, and Institute as a whole, are coming from.

      • parus

        When I was at Institute my “faculty adviser” was a TFA alumna, lol

        Veteran perspective, maybe, although not all that veteran. Diverse perspective, not so much.

      • Duane Swacker

        Any education reform/policy/practice that uses the word “investment” is bankrupt from the gitgo. Talking/using banksterese, hedge fund double speak, business notions in referring to the teaching and learning process is abhorrent. The students are humans which brings all interactions under the realm of what is just and right for them and not “investments” that can “grow”. The more I read about the TFA the more I understand its “bankrupt” mode of thinking.

        • CY

          You clearly haven’t read THAT much about TFA because we are not talking about students as investments. To invest students refers most nearly to this definition of invest: “To endow with authority or power.” Giving students power over their own education, making them own it and want it.

  7. bythebay

    I think this is a little unfair to be honest.

    I (a 2010 CM) personally was never taught that investment was a magic bullet. My institute experience had to do a lot with using data to identify holes in understanding. If my students did not do well on an assessment, I was taught to determine why, not to simply invest them more. I was always taught to understand where my students were starting as well as where they needed to be by the end. Perhaps that was just my unique school team, but I feel like that was a pretty common theme throughout my Institute.

    Also, regarding the video of CMs, I feel like they should be given a break. These people have just started their teaching careers and are admittedly a bit naive. However, I think if you were to interview recent college grads just entering a teacher prep program, you would probably find equally as naive comments about the sources of educational inequity as well. Regarding the comment about homework, it immediately reminded me of my MTLD who I’m sure would have corrected the CM. Regarding the girl who was “angry” about her students skills, I get incredibly frustrated when my students come into Geometry not knowing their multiplication tables or how to add fractions. I don’t feel as though it is the fault of their former teachers (specifically at my school, I feel it’s more about a district-wide policy where students are not allowed to be held back even if they fail a class).

    Either way, I’d say all of these people are incredibly early in their teaching careers and will certainly realize that some of the things they say are not accurate or fair. I don’t think it’s indicative of what TFA believes or even what all institutes are like (as I said, my experience was certainly not about flowery ideas of investment, but about real-time strategy).

    • Duane Swacker

      What the hell is “invest them more” supposed to mean? Actually all it is, is a “language usage from hell”.

  8. James

    7:40

    I have five students.

  9. Jeff Ward

    I’m going to avoid reading all these comments and just ask why do you say the “focus on ‘investment,’ … is a waste of time at best, and counterproductive at worst.”

    Is the problem the focus on investment? Or the investment itself? Are you saying our time would be better spent in creating strong assessments and lessons?

    I can see the truth in that, to some extent. I had my students “invested” last year in their math goal, which in my opinion was a big factor in their own personal motivation. But then again, if I would have just created really stellar lessons, I think they would have been equally happy to attend and learn.

    I’ve just seen that the happy student can learn, but a student who hates being in the classroom struggles. So investment may be more of a way to generate a positive classroom environment than actually teach or learn. Anyway, any clarification of that point would be helpful as I go into year 4.

    • Gary Rubinstein

      Jeff, Excellent question which will give me a chance to clarify. In your third year, you can do the investment thing because it is not just talk. You’ve got proven success and a collection of polished lessons and activities. First and second year teachers shouldn’t do it since they get the kids all excited and then they assign something beyond the students abilities and call it ‘high expectations’ and then the kids are doubly let down.

  10. Bill

    It is so hard to see these new teachers talk about their experience in such a microcosm of what they are actually going to experience. I would love to see them create huge gains in their classrooms. My experience with TFA teachers however is that they come in lacking the tools they need due to a lack of training and usually are so jaded about who they are that they don’t ask for help from veteran teachers.

  11. Cortez (guy at 3:52 and 9:42) is from the Mississippi Delta. You have absolutely no grounds to contradict someone who has lived the cultural context of the students he’s serving — none whatsoever. He’s lived it, you haven’t.

    You should be ashamed of picking apart a YouTube video with corps members who are exhausted and enduring one of the most emotionally turbulent events of their lives.

    • Gary Rubinstein

      Without realistic training, their first year will be the most emotionally turbulent event of their life, not the institute. I’m not ashamed of myself, and I feel pretty confident that the participants in the video appreciate my feedback.

      • James

        True story — my first year was indeed the most emotionally turbulent year of my life. Proper training about what I could reasonably accomplish would have helped me to better manage expectations and, as a result, ultimately teach my students a heck of a lot more.

    • parus

      I find it mind-boggling that Institute could be among the most “emotionally turbulent events” of someone’s life.

      If someone is that sensitive to having a critical eye cast on what they have to say, I would strongly encourage them not to post public videos of themselves on youtube.

  12. TFAtx

    I would hardly call this post “picking apart” the CMs. One downside of TFA’s professional development model is that it leads many to forget what helpful and positive criticism actually sounds like. Gary’s post basically provided a really important word of caution to the CMs who seemed to be on the verge of a dangerous assumption that all of their students have only had bad teachers. If that assumption is wrong – and it definitely is – then pointing it out is not “picking apart,” but helpful.

  13. DeltaAlum

    I had to turn the video off at 9:36 because I wanted to scream. Seriously, still with the behavior narration, it doesn’t work. I’m also a bit pissed (can I say that here?) because TFA has been in the Delta for 20 YEARS!!!! Most of these kids have probably had a TFA teacher before. Most these kids have probably been at the mercy of TFA summer school. Yes, my students are held to high expectations every single day. Some got, some didn’t. Yes my students can multiple and divide it’s just more fun to pretend you can’t because then you don’t have to think. The only people who helped me make sense of the school systems down here are the veteran teachers. The ones that have been at the same school for 30 years. The ones who graduated from the same school they teach at (white teachers also, so when did all the white people leave the public school?). I feel so alone here in the Delta and I’m still here, planning on teaching next year and the year after that and the year after that. After I recover from my two-year commitment to TFA I’ll continue with grad school. I’m a “non-traditional” (read old) and I have exactly one friend who went through this hell with me honestly and that teacher is still here still teaching and still fighting a dysfunctional system. Gary, I am venting on your blog because I still am not confident enough with my opinions to actually formulate a sound argument. Thank you for the platform :)

    • KH

      Give these poor kids some real training and preparation for what they will face in the classroom. It seems as if they are being thrown to the wolves with such bad practices being pounded into them at institute. Sorry gang, but you can’t churn out a teacher in five weeks. However, you can give these kids support and encouragement and guide them with researched-based techniques that have proven successful for traditionally trained teachers. There are too many amazing resources that could be used. It’s sad because teaching is such a wonderful profession and the students deserve the best that we can give them.

  14. Hello Gary,
    Thanks for your opinions around the video I created. It was requested that I make some edits (you can imagine why) but I wanted to share with you the new link: http://youtu.be/sWaPevJmodo I am working on an “End of Institute” video which will be posted around July 10. Thanks for your insight!

    • Gary Rubinstein

      Hi Jaleh,
      Did you get to make the new video?

  15. Michael L

    You should read the first section of this current TFA-ers most recent post for an interesting critique of TFA ideology.

    http://danyaindallas.teachforus.org/2012/07/02/institute-days-19-22-theory-and-practice/

  16. Joan Taylor

    Blake only wrote one sonnet. I had to wince at the implication that this is what one would associate with him.

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By a somewhat frustrated 1991 alum

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