Break Every Yoke

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap

Archives › Thoughts

Jun 10 2013

Two years

The school year is almost over. This week is reserved for underclassmen finals, and grades are due by next Monday, which means most students will stop showing up after that. Last Saturday was district-wide graduation day, so the seniors are already gone. This Saturday is Alumni Induction, which is essentially graduation for corps members (we…

read more »
Mar 06 2013

When salsa is like math

Last September, I joined Brown’s salsa club because I wanted something fun to do outside of teaching, and lessons were cheap and nearby. I improved a lot during the first semester, in large part due to my perfect attendance—lessons moved quickly, and I wouldn’t have been able to keep up otherwise. At the end of…

read more »
Feb 08 2013

On being more like an elevator

I think I’ll write a quasi-continuation of my last post, in honor of my first snow day ever. (Thanks, Nemo!) Even as a second-year teacher, it’s easy to feel paralyzed by the sheer quantity of things I need to do. Adopting the Together Teacher system over the summer has helped a little, but there are…

read more »

It’s often said that teaching has a steep learning curve. True, sort of. More precisely, teaching has a logarithmic learning curve—it’s steep at first but eventually flattens out. This has two implications: At the start of teaching, each unit of effort yields a leap in incremental effectiveness. You find a graphic organizer online that helps students keep track…

read more »
Jan 13 2013

Fragments

Thoughts to flesh out at some point, maybe: ————— I have a couple students who are sleepy every single class period. They’re not being defiant; they simply can’t stay awake for more than fifteen minutes at a time, and I don’t know why. The standard response to my probing is, “I’m just tired, mister.” What…

read more »

Vacations are tricky things. The “freedom” they profess to offer is illusory: the more time I spend upfront with family, books, hobbies, or sleep (i.e. regaining normal functionality), the greater the anxiety to utilize the rest of the break getting caught up with (or ahead on) school work. The end of a vacation usually sneaks…

read more »

Work Hard. Be Nice. brands itself as the story of “how two inspired teachers created the most promising schools in America.” Education-savvy readers will, of course, recognize the title as the trademark slogan of the Knowledge Is Power Program, better known as KIPP, which (according to Wikipedia) is the largest network of charter schools in the…

read more »
Aug 25 2012

Harmony

I begin my second year of teaching on Tuesday. From the outside, not much has improved since last year. I have no idea what my schedule will look like, since it has changed three times already; I am teaching subjects that I have never taught before to an age group I have never worked with…

read more »

I sometimes inadvertently get lost in my own ideas and theories. I’ve learned to check this tendency in recent years, since it can happen at very inappropriate moments, such as in the middle of a conversation, or even while teaching. One setting where I give my thought processes free reign, however, is in the airport,…

read more »
Jul 29 2012

Thoughts on identity

More often than not, this blog serves as a place to record and reflect on particularly notable events in my already eventful life as a teacher. It would seem appropriate, then, to write about my first experience on staff with NYC Institute, which just concluded yesterday. However, the past six weeks have been filled with…

read more »
Jun 17 2012

Thus ends the infamous Year One

Overheard during an Operations session E: “When I’m stressed, I like to take a shower and then lie in my bed naked.” a couple minutes later… D: “When I’m stressed, I like to walk into E’s room.” ————— [Disclaimer: This is probably the longest and most scatter-brained post I've ever written. Consider yourself warned.] As…

read more »
Mar 30 2012

The Danger of a Single Story

I’ve had Chimamanda Adichie’s “The Danger of a Single Story” bookmarked for months now, but I finally got around to watching the 20-minute TED talk this past week. In it, Adichie describes her childhood in Nigeria, her college experience in the United States, and, as one might imagine from the title, the potency and potential…

read more »

Overheard during a lesson on arithmetic sequences R: “Oh my gawddd, this stuff is so awesome.” There is a remarkable disconnect between how much stuff has been happening in my classroom, school, life, etc., and how little I feel like blogging about it. Maybe my desire to write is directly proportional to the amount of…

read more »
Feb 29 2012

Are we the greater fools?

I’ve been reading a lot of interesting dialogue and debate regarding TFA and other “corporate” reform measures (not my favorite term, but unfortunately the most widely understood). It started back in January when an ed student and TFA naysayer posted a rather spiteful comment on Wess’s post “Bang for your buck”, and I ended up…

read more »
Feb 13 2012

Give grace to those who hear

I realize that it’s Monday, which means I’m breaking my firmly-established tradition of updating only on weekends, but this needs to be said. As a teacher, it is so easy to find things to complain about. The work day is too long. Lunch is too short. The copy machine never works. Certification coursework sucks. Administration…

read more »
Jan 22 2012

Calm and quiet

O LORD, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me. But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me. O Israel,…

read more »

My younger brother recently asked me an intriguing question: “If you died right now—like, if you dropped dead in front of me—do you think you’d go to heaven?” I didn’t know if he was joking or serious (I can never really tell), so I took the safe way out: “Um, yeah. I’d like to think…

read more »
Dec 25 2011

Reflections of a traveling teacher

It seems fitting—symmetric, at the very least—that I should be writing my last entry of 2011 the same way I wrote the first: in an airport terminal, waiting for my flight while reflecting on what lay before and what lies ahead. In the past four months, I have embarked on the toughest journey of my…

read more »
Nov 25 2011

Give thanks in all circumstances

Fact #1: I’ve spent a majority of the past 72 hours sleeping like a baby. Fact #2: I had to take half days on Tuesday and Wednesday because of flu-like symptoms and a splitting headache that made it hard to even stand up straight. Fact #3: Yesterday was my fourth time spending Thanksgiving away from…

read more »
Nov 12 2011

So You Think You Can Teach?

To say that Teach For America places a strong emphasis on planning would probably be an understatement. According to one of the six characteristics of TFA’s Teaching As Leadership framework, high effective teachers “plan purposefully.” (Without ascribing undue significance to the order of said characteristics, it’s interesting to note that “plan purposefully” comes before “execute…

read more »

Overheard during whiteboard time D.: *sigh* “This class gets more and more organized every day.” Let me be real for a moment. I mean really real, not kinda sorta real, like I usually am when an acquaintance asks how TFA is going to be polite. Teaching is hard. This past week has been hard. This…

read more »
Oct 24 2011

Rekindled

Overheard during Independent Practice B. (to D.): “You’re ruining our lives and eating all our steak!” I may have to resort to blogging less regularly. It’s not a matter of not having enough free time (though heaven knows that’s true). Simply put, forcing myself to write every weekend isn’t always conducive to substantive, meaningful posts…

read more »
Oct 08 2011

Counting it all joy

Overheard at the end of a block N.: “Ohmigoshhh I lost my exit slip!” An unintended consequence of blogging on weekends is that I’m usually writing when I’m physically and emotionally at my peak. I get to catch up (somewhat) on sleep, I can actually spend some time reading for pleasure and chatting with non-teacher…

read more »

Random comment during a lesson on transformations L.: “Mm mister, you smell good!” ————— Fact #1: I have now taught for almost three times as many hours as I taught at Institute. Fact #2: Preparing for two classes (or in teacher lingo, having “two preps”) is exhausting. Fact #3: High school seniors are still children.…

read more »

Random comment during a lesson on procedures E.: “Mr. K, you look like you’re really really old. You look like you’re like, 24.” I’ve officially made it through the first week of the school year, and wow, what a week it was. Thanks to certain apocalyptic predictions about Hurricane Irene (I’m looking at you, weather.com),…

read more »

About this Blog

New city, same vision


Subscribe to this blog (feed)


Archives