The Adventure Begins

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Jul 27 2010

all we know for sure is all that we are fighting for.

I’m currently taking a brain-break from my second day at Round Zero. Today, we are drafting our “big goals” for our classroom and I am finding it increasingly difficult to do so. Let’s start at the beginning.

Our goal, here at Teach for America, in essence is to put ourselves out of a job. We want to bridge this gap, give each child a chance at life and really get them to where they can be whether its college or technical school or even manager training at a business. I guess what I don’t understand is that we all get so excited when new charter corps open, and we have the chance to expand into more and more regions. My CMA at Institute shared with us this feeling and it makes so much sense – he said on the last day [this isn't verbatim, I didn't write it down, but along these lines] that when another charter corps opens it is really exciting because those are more kids to serve and more kids we can give these chances to, but at the end of the day, the need is great. We haven’t closed any regions, we haven’t bridged that gap. I often wonder if we can. Theoretically, what would happen if Teach for America closed Tulsa after the second year of the corps? Would two years be enough to bridge the educational achievement gap? Is 20 years enough for the first six regions [which, for your information are...Rural Georgia, Los Angeles, New Orleans, New York City, Eastern North Carolina, and South Louisiana] to make a big enough change to close? Can we, as leaders, make this happen? I must be clear in my intentions here: I do not mean to say that TFA will never bridge the gap, or never close regions or that the organization I work for is pointless. I’m just saying…this is all bigger than a girl that blogs every so often about her kids. The fact that as a non-profit we can reach these regions is enormous – but what does that mean for our kids in this country? What does this mean for the kids that aren’t getting these resources?

Ever since I’ve started the application process to Teach for America, I’ve been surprised at every turn. Most of the time the surprises have turned out to have pretty good results and I haven’t had to shed too many tears. Now that I’m teaching Pre-K [which, for those of you that don't know, was changed from my original Secondary Special Education placement I had from February to late June.] I’m finding that there is this huge stigma. A lot of my peers have unashamedly informed me that my job isn’t exactly “real” and that I don’t need a degree, let alone this organization, to teach preschoolers. I have no idea how many times I’ve had to tell my friends, my peers, the people I look up to, that Pre-Kindergarten is probably the most important place I could be – I have the chance to not just eliminate, but prevent the educational achievement gap…which brings me to my next point: my big goal.

What does a 4-year old need to know to be ready for Kindergarten? Moreover, what does a 4-year old need to know to be ready for FIRST grade, to be ready to go into class at the TOP of the class instead of at the bottom where society would love to put them? There’s no pressure, right? I only have to teach kids how to read, write AND brush their teeth and zip their zippers. It’s frustrating, that my friends and peers outside of the 20 of us placed to teach Early Childhood Education, cannot fathom why I’m here. Some days, I’m not so sure. I’m not sure why I’ve been sitting here since 9:30, trying to find a goal that makes sense to me, makes sense to my kids I haven’t met and made sense to parents that are probably right around my age.

HOW DO I REACH THESE PEOPLE, THESE KIDS THAT DESERVE THAT FIGHTING CHANCE?

3 Responses

  1. Tom Akerlund

    Sadie,
    Please know that what you are doing with these young children is in fact critical. You set the stage for all future learning for these boys and girls,Done correctly they will have every opportunity to become sucsessful learners. Those who get your kids in the future will be thankful that they were well prepared.
    With that said, it’s important to know that these young children are just that young children. Their job at this developmental level is primarily play. This is how they learn. You cannot stuff academics down these guys. Will they absorpb some of it? Yes, will they retain it and be able to transfer the learning to other venues? Probably not because they are just not quite grown enough to do so. There is plenty of research on this subject. Basically it emphasizes that these kids need lost of play, structure and to develop social skill that will help them interact with their peers in an appropriate fashion. these are important foundations for young children.
    YOU CANNOT MAKE THEM GROW ANY FASTER! They are going to work and learn when they have the readiness to do so. Read PIAGET.
    Best of luck and never give up!

  2. To anyone who doubts the “realness” of your job, I would say: spend the day with just 5 four-year-olds, and then tell us what you think.

    Did you see this article? (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/28/business/economy/28leonhardt.html) The earliest years of education are vitally important, as the research is beginning to show. My mother still raves about my pre-school teachers, and I still remember them.

    I’m about to start my first year as a middle school teacher. I can only hope that my students had early education teachers who read to them every day and made them feel secure and loved.

  3. Sadie- pre-K is possibly the most critical point—you are at the beginning of their classroom experience. Tom is right, kids need to be kids and learning is more through play and interaction. All of my parenting experience is in special ed. Pre-K is so important for all kids. My son still talks about his pre-school teachers–so I found them and they came to his h.s. graduation party. Think about it – in Pre-K you are the main person for the student, the parent, the school. Everything is a first —- and you will get to experience this. Use your training, your skill and never doubt your intuition. I think the most important thing for these kids is to connect with you. So many kids never connect, never get the chance to connect, and live their whole life without a connection. If you connect with even one student you are changing the world.
    Thank you for working so hard for all of us.
    Nancy

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About this Blog

my "real world" life is beginning – and along with it, my kids' educations. Join me in my quest to eliminate the achievement gap: one pre-k student at a time.

Region
Oklahoma
Grade
Early Childhood
Subject
Elementary Education

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