Apr 27, 2007

I'm now officially a TFA member...

Well, after days of soul searching and endless research, I pulled the trigger: I joined the ranks of the thousands of TFAers before me, hoping to make a difference. NYCTF is a wonderful program, and I feel blessed to have been accepted to both, but TFA just came out on top in a few key categories. I will start "teacher boot camp" on June 24th. Before then, I have to squeeze in lots of pre-boot camp required reading, classroom observations, studying for the LAST and CST exams, taking said exams, flying home for a visit, going away to a much needed retreat into the mountains with my sweetie, and trying not to hyperventilate. Wish me luck!

Apr 24, 2007

I made it into NYC Teaching Fellows!

So yesterday, after posting that I made it into Teach for America, I am happy to report today that I was accepted into NYC Teaching Fellows. They also gave me everything I wanted: secondary-level English in NYC (obviously). Now I have to make a decision between two great programs, both of which have a lot of pros and a few cons, and accept one of the offers by May 4th. I really want to make my decision before that, though, so that I can begin the lengthy process of registering and studying for exams, pre-boot camp prep work, etc.

Anyone with info on BOTH of these programs that would like to offer advice to help me make this huge decision...you would be GREATLY appreciated!! Thanks so much. I'll let you all know as soon as I decide. I think (hope) it'll be like Frost's "Road Not Taken" in the end...the decision I make will be the right one for me...I just have to make it, first!

Apr 23, 2007

I made it into Teach For America!

So, I found out on the 19th (my honey's bday, so already a great day) that I was accepted into Teach for America!! They gave me everything I wanted, too, which I am pleased, but surprised, to announce: secondary-level, language arts, and location: New York City! I am so relieved that I won't have to scramble to try to find a MA program to get into by this fall.

I haven't accepted yet, as I am waiting to hear from NYC Teaching Fellows so I can make a decision. Any current or former Fellows or TFA cohorts who have any info to help me make my choice would be VERY appreciated!! There are some pro's and con's of both, but if I get into NYCTF and get the level and subject I want, then I'll have a REAL choice on my hands.

But at the very least, I can rest assured that I will have my own classroom this September! I can't wait!

Apr 16, 2007

3 more days...

So, I find out if I made it into Teach for America three days from today. I'll easily admit to being a bit nervous. If I don't make it into either program, I'll have to quickly throw together some apps for grad programs, and it's honestly not the route I'd prefer to enter teaching through. But it's out of my hands, so I just have to play the waiting game.

On another note, the title of this blog comes from an amazing book that everyone (not just teachers) should read, called "Up the Down Staircase" by Bel Kauffman. Thanks to my upstairs neighbor for lending it to me; it's definitely one of the best books I've read in a long time, and from all of the teacher blogs I've been reading, the book seems just as timely today as it was decades ago. Do yourself a favor and check it out! Ok. PSA over.

And one more "other note" for today's entry. The blogs to the right of teachers (especially NYC teachers) are an amazing, haunting, depressing, and ultimately illuminating look into inner-city classrooms as they really are--not glossed over by the admins and bureaucrats who tout "improvement" over the cries of the voices in the know. Check them out. Especially for teachers-to-be, like me, they will give you a lot to think about and digest.

Apr 12, 2007

TFA and NYCTF Interview Days

So last week I had my interviews with Teach for America and New York City Teaching Fellows...within two days of each other. TFA was first, so I'll talk about it first.

Teach For America Interview Thoughts:
  • they had us in the Lehman Brothers office building for the full day interview
  • we sat in swanky leather chairs in a posh board room
  • the two interviewers were very nice, my interviewer in particular (she took about 20 minutes to tell us all an inspirational story of what one TFA teacher accomplished with kids in the Rio Grande Valley)
  • they are much more focus on the "MISSION" (all caps) of eliminating the education / socio-economic income gap than filling the teacher shortage. They actually have a lot of good to say about this, but in the end, they aren't geared toward keeping people in the classroom as teachers.
The actual interview itself is pretty much just what they tell you it will be on the website. I was nervous at first during my 5 minute lesson plan (remember to breathe and speak normally!), but quickly turned on the improv charm and had all of my "students" eating out of the palm of my hand...and eating grammar, at that! So that part went well. Almost everyone did well on their lesson plans and seemed prepared for the task. They had handouts (as did I) and most stayed within the 5 minute time limit. The TFA recruiters seemed to have done a great job weeding out the detritus, as everyone there had an impressive resume, was well spoken, looked professional, etc, etc.

The group discussion is a joke. All you do is "blah blah blah, great idea Ms. X" and "I thought XYZ about the article, and think we should do blah blah blah." Just make sure you read your articles and participate (not too much or too little) and you'll do fine on that part.

The writing exercise might be harder for some people, but writing essays and letters is my bread and butter, so I didn't stress about that section either. Which just left the personal interview, which I also thought went very well.

Overall feeling about the TFA interview day: B+

New York City Teaching Fellows Interview Thoughts:
  • we interviewed at Washington Irving HS in Union Square
  • we sat at graffiti scrawled desk tops made for smaller bodies, in a room covered from floor to ceiling in brightly colored, home-made charts and graphs and student work
  • the two interviewers were nice, but a bit reserved. They gave a quick "my name is x and I teach y" and that was it. No inspirational stories about the "mission" here.
For some reason, it was a little more daunting to stand up in a cluttered classroom jam packed with desks and give the lesson than in the much smaller, swankier board room. Luckily I had already done the lesson once, so I was more comfortable this time (though still nervous, despite maxims to breathe deeply). I was SHOCKED at the performance of some of the other candidates, though. Compared with the TFA candidates that all did well, only a few of the NYCTF candidates got an "A" in my book...and some were down right dreadful! One girl pleaded--to no avail--to the stone faced observers to get her notes, and start over, and kept saying how bad she was doing...out loud to the class! I don't mean to be rude or cold, but she probably isn't ready to teach a class in the South Bronx full of hormonal teenagers if a class full of helpful adults rattled her that badly. Moving on (I could go on and on)...

The group session was almost identical to TFA's in format, though the question differed a little, of course. I actually thought NYCTF's approach to this was better, as they made you come up with actual solutions to real problems facing teachers. No esoteric pedagogy here.

The writing portion was the same. In the form of a letter (and that's all you're gettin' from me!)...

My personal interview was what tipped it for me. My interviewer Joy has been teaching "alternative" students in NYC for 12 years. She came off a bit stern and reserved throughout the day (actually, they had us there at night), so I was hoping I wouldn't get her for my personal interview. But I did...and I couldn't have been happier at the end! The interview itself went great, and I established a good rapor with her right away. What tipped the "program scales" for me was that Joy stayed late (I was the last interviewee at 9pm) and talked to me for an extra 20 minutes. She gave me the scoop and didn't hedge or paint rosie any aspect I questioned her about. She also gave me a lot of practical advice for interviewing with principals, classroom management, etc. I hope I get to meet her again some day and thank her...she really helped me to know I was in the "right place" for the right reasons.

Overall feeling about the NYCTF interview day: A-

...and that was it. Now I just have to wait until April 19th (my honey's birthday) to find out if I got into TFA, and the beginning of May for NYCTF. I'm definitely on the fence as to which program I prefer (assuming / hoping I get into both). Anyone out there with knowledge about either or both programs??? Your input would be greatly appreciated!!

Every New Beginning...

...comes from some other beginning's end. Or at least, that's what I've been told. I'm not sure if anything has ended so much as transitioned (does anything ever really just end?). I left the military last year and am now pursuing a career in education in New York City. I've interviewed with Teach For America and New York City Teaching Fellows (more to come on the interviews later) and am currently waiting for the notification deadline to find out if I made it into either program...you'll be the first to know if I get in, dear reader [thanks Mom!].