Break Every Yoke

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap

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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…

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May 30 2013

Drafty

Over the past month, I’ve begun drafting three entries on this blog and another two on my private blog. Only one has made it past a few sentences. This is a testament to the disjointedness of my thoughts lately, as I approach the end of the school year while simultaneously ramping up my responsibilities for…

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May 21 2013

Rough day

I drafted a lengthy, pensive yet optimistic, I-can’t-believe-it’s-already-the-end-of-May kind of blog entry during my prep today… and then period 6-7 happened. It was, without a doubt, the most out-of-control 109 minutes I have experienced in my two years of teaching thus far. I had kids falling asleep, shouting at each other, refusing to sit in their…

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Apr 28 2013

Two stories

It’s not quite dark on Sunday evening, but I’ve already finished all my planning, copying, grading, and data tracking for tomorrow. This is a very novel experience, even as a second-year teacher, so I’m a little disoriented. I guess I’ll use this time to share two stories from last week, one negative and one positive,…

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Mar 29 2013

Good Friday

This is a poem-sermon I first heard two years ago. It has no connection to teaching or education (except in a grand, cosmic sense I suppose), but after a physically and mentally draining month, it’s a jolting shot of hope and a powerful reminder of why today is called Good Friday. It’s Friday. Jesus is arrested…

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Mar 19 2013

Second-year success stories

March is a long and relentless month. I would say it’s kind of like October, the other dreaded month, but without even the prospect of the holidays around the corner. March is about when teachers start to believe, whether they verbalize it or not, that there is truly no rest for the weary. But it’s…

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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…

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Feb 28 2013

Think about these things

I have a confession to make: I have not been myself lately. I’ve felt bitter about being given three preps (plus a new advisory), just as two were becoming manageable. My feedback for others has been four parts criticism to one part encouragement. When I redirect students, it’s less values-driven and more “you do what…

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Feb 21 2013

A guide to high school slang

After a year and a half of teaching, I’ve become quite familiar with the slang of teenagers in Rhode Island and beyond. Below is my best attempt to define some of the terms and expressions that I hear most often in my classroom and hallways. Disclaimer: some of these are mildly offensive. amped - adj. excited,…

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Feb 10 2013

Snow day #2

I just received a pre-recorded phone call informing me that school is canceled tomorrow. Under normal circumstances, this would be cause for celebration, or at least quiet thanksgiving and an early bedtime. But having spent the entire weekend (including Friday) planning, grading, and system-building inside my snow-encased apartment, all I could think as I listened…

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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…

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Jan 30 2013

On not feeling overwhelmed

The past two weeks have been intense. I’ve attended a TFA- or teaching-related meeting almost every day after school. The district replaced our principal with someone who has never worked in the building before. My formal evaluation was rescheduled twice, each time at the last minute. (It’s currently set for next Tuesday, but who knows what…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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Dec 20 2012

Skate shops and revelation

Today was the last school day of 2012. I do plan to reflect critically on the first semester sometime over the break, but for now I just want to record two stories from yesterday. ————— MS transferred to my school this year as a sophomore—though he’s supposed to be a junior—and I have him in…

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Dec 12 2012

An early Christmas miracle

T was one of my top students last year, and I am currently his mentor for a senior research paper. I recently found out that he spent much of his childhood in a Nepalese refugee camp, where he had no formal education and worked in a rat-infested restaurant to support himself. The following interaction took…

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Last year, the last period of every other day was small, and the students were mature, self-motivated, academically successful 12th graders. (Yes, I got very lucky with that class.) This year, my last period of the day is still small, but that’s where the similarities end. The students should be in 11th grade, but most…

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I have long been meaning to write about the difference between first and second year, but nothing I have written seems to do it justice. Even now, I have trouble describing it in anything but metaphor: night and day, storm and sunshine, even death and life. Yet I must try my best to assure any first-year teachers…

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Oct 04 2012

Discoveries

Today, I discovered: One of my Algebra 1 kids is a Billboard-ranked pop artist. Another one of my Algebra 1 kids was kicked off public transit this morning for “talking too loud.” According to an eyewitness, the lady who complained about him was talking just as loudly, if not louder. (Said kid was also not…

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Sep 11 2012

Second year gladness

There is no comparison between first and second year. Twelve months ago, I was enjoying teaching well enough but struggling mightily just to keep up with its day-to-day demands (the emotional and spiritual, in addition to the physical). This year, three weeks into the new semester, I feel like I have not only kept my…

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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…

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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,…

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About this Blog

New city, same vision

Region
Rhode Island
Grade
High School
Subject
Math

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