Math Nerd

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Sep 12 2011

TFA, From a Slightly Different Perspective

Welcome to my new blog! I am a future TFA corps member (2012!), and tomorrow is my first day of work at the home office of a charter school network. Since I am not currently in a classroom, my blog’s focus will be a bit different than that of most Teach for Us blogs, but I still want to add to the conversation.  This post gives a little bit of my back story.

I’m a recent graduate of MIT, where I majored in mechanical engineering.  I applied to TFA last fall after visiting several corps members’ middle-school science classrooms.  One of the teachers told me, “the hardest thing for me is actually the science.  My kids are smart and have good questions, and I can’t answer them because I’m just reading a chapter ahead in the book.  I never had a science class in college.”

I was shocked.  TFA had sent me to these teachers as part of its recruitment process, so I couldn’t imagine they were weak links.  I knew how competitive TFA admissions were, and while I knew that there was a nationwide shortage of math and science teachers, I had assumed that TFA could attract candidates with strong content knowledge.  It seemed that assumption was wrong.  I applied immediately.

After I applied, I began volunteering in local schools to help me get ready for teaching.  Once I was accepted and assigned to teach math – my first choice – I visited as many math classrooms as I could.  I read education blogs.  I read Teach Like a Champion.  I got my hands on the Institute reading early and plowed through it, too.  In college, I had bounced from one career idea to the next, never finding anything I really enjoyed. Now, I finally felt like this was it.

I was placed as a math teacher in a charter school in early 2011.  I was ecstatic.

Unfortunately, I was beset by chronic medical issues. By early May, I still wasn’t better, and I felt like it would be irresponsible for me to start teaching this fall.  With extreme regret, I called TFA and my school to deliver the bad news.   Both were sympathetic.  I deferred TFA until 2012 and asked the school to keep me in the loop on volunteer opportunities.

One thing led to another, and now I am about to begin a yearlong position at the central office serving that same school.  While I would love to be teaching math, I’m also incredibly excited about my new job.  I am convinced that every additional individual working to improve schools makes a difference, no matter his or her role.  Though I won’t be on the front lines, I’m looking forward to making my own contribution.

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