How I’m Spending My Summer Vacation

This post was originally published on Pass the Chalk.

Letter welcoming 2013 TFA CMs
Photo via Teach For America—Twin Cities Facebook page

“Every bulletin board, every binder, every sign you make, should be thought of with student success in mind.”

As I attended my first staff-training weekend for Teach For America institute in Tulsa, one of my supervisors emphasized the intense focus on student achievement, and I was reminded of just how much responsibility I had gotten myself into for the summer. If I chose the wrong bulletin-board color, student learning could slide! (OK, maybe not—but there was still a lot of pressure!)

Yet I felt almost guilty, knowing that I was about to get the strongest form of professional development out there.

Through my first year of teaching, when I was feeling particularly stressed about a certain issue (say, behavior management), I would go through my institute files and find a great resource. Every time I did this, I was thankful for the resource—and felt a little bummed that I hadn’t fully capitalized on it as I went through training.

All those late nights (and Taco Bell runs when I hit a wall that only a Crunch Wrap Supreme could fix) left me with a messy, overstuffed institute folder on my laptop and a slightly foggy memory.

They say you learn best by teaching, so I applied to work on staff at institute. After all, I have a ton of information to share with folks, and a whole bunch more to learn—and that’s where the guilt came in. At first glance, the choice to apply was selfish: I needed more training. I wanted the experience. I wanted to make bulletin boards so beautiful that students and staff alike would weep with joy at the sight.

It wasn’t until I was offered a position and dove into my institute preparation that I realized just how exciting of a movement I was entering in Tulsa. The community is rallying behind a strong education for all students, with TFA working as a strong partner.

I also learned that before TFA launched its Tulsa institute, summer learning standards in the city had to be aligned more closely with state standards. The community worked enthusiastically with TFA to make this change, and the result has been students who are better prepared to enter class on grade-level in the fall.

It’s exhilarating to think that, in the midst of helping corps members and learning myself, I can be part of an invaluable service to students who need confidence and support the most.

I’m also stoked that new corps members in my region, the Twin Cities, have summer schools with waiting lists of kids clamoring to get in the door. This will give them solid experience building classroom culture and managing behavior with a full class of students.

It’s going to be a summer of madness, excitement, and more than one trip to Taco Bell. And I’m so ready.

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