15 July 2010

one day starts today...

Have you seen this article about some of the new teachers in Teach for America's (TFA) 2010 corps, from Monday's edition of the New York Times? If you're unfamiliar with TFA, the article gives a little background on the program. Five years ago, I began teaching with Teach For America, and although it was a very tough two years, I can't say enough good things about my experience and the people I met because of this program.

Tomorrow is the last day of training for the 2010 corps members at the TFA's institute in Houston. Along with completing my own initial training at the Houston institute, I have worked on institute staff over two summers as a corps member advisor (CMA). As a CMA, I got to work with new teachers by reading and editing their lesson plans, and observing and providing feedback on their teaching. One part of observing their teaching involves talking to the students to check their understanding of the material they are supposed to be learning. Last summer, there was a completely adorbs little friend named Zahaira in one of the fourth grade classes I was observing. She always said hilarious things and furthermore, she would waggle her head and peer over her glasses while talking, à la this feisty dame (minus the angry scowl, of course):

Zahaira's particular brand of sass was right up my alley, and needless to say, I loved interviewing this girl while observing her class. During a lesson on matter, I quietly walked over to her to see how she was doing with the material.

Our conversation went as follows:
Me: Hi, Zahaira. What are you working on today?
Zahaira: Matter...everything's matter. This pen is matter. This paper's matter. That prize bucket is matter. Even that girl over there who always watches The 16 Show is matter.

["That girl over there" gives Zahaira a look. Zahaira is unfazed.]

Zahaira: What? You do always watch The 16 Show, and you are matter.
Me: [stifling laughter] Great, so you're learning all about matter. So tell me, what are your goals in this class?
Zahaira: I don't know...like, work hard, get smart?
Me: Awesome...are you working hard to get smart?
Zahaira: Oh yeah. [dramatic pause] Oh, and see that desk? That's matter too.

Being a first year teacher is hard. Although my first year was a while ago, I distinctly remember feeling completely lost and like nothing I was doing could make any difference. So, to all new teachers...let Zahaira's words be a reminder that what you do does, in fact, matter.

Images via and via.


  1. Being a cma IS so fun! Best moment: 6th grader takes off his shirt, completely, in class while the teacher is turned around. He has it back on with his hand raised to answer a question before the teacher even notices!

  2. this story is even better in person, as miss l is a virtuoso with kid impressions.