Along The River

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Oct 19 2011

Advice to a friend applying for TFA

I just wrote this really long message to a friend of mine who is applying, and I thought I’d reproduce it here.

Friend! No worries about bugging me. I won’t lie, this is easily the most challenging thing I’ll ever do. There were moments when I wanted to quit. I was looking for a new job about a month in to school. But it is an awesome challenge. When I stop enjoying the challenge, stop thinking things can get better, that’s when I’ll know I can’t do it anymore. 10 weeks into the year, I’m beginning to believe that I can definitely do this and definitely get better.

Institute prepares you for about 5% of life as a teacher. Maybe make that 10% because it also prepares you for the lifestyle. I won’t say it wasn’t valuable but you definitely can’t believe that it will prepare you nearly enough.
My school is 99% black, 95% free and reduced lunch. I actually started out the year teaching 7th grade math, and then I was really bad at controlling the kids so they switched me to 6th grade science (they thought the 6th grade science teacher, also TFA, would be better than me.) The kids are pretty good. Two of my five classes are sort of hellish, but the other three go pretty well. They are sweet kids.
As for life in the corps, it is a lot of work. I get up at 6, get to school by 7, monitor kids at breakfast, get an hour of planning and 20 minutes for lunch, teach until 2:15, and leave school between 4 and 4:30. At home I relax until after dinner, then I get stuff ready for the next day or the day after that (when I’m really on my game, like I am right now). Sundays are spent lesson planning (trying to change that though, and spread it out more). At any rate, I spend a lot of time working and a lot of the time I’m not working I’m thinking about work.
I do this work partly because I really am furious about the injustices in public education and, frankly, partly because TFA looks really good and I want to work in education outside of the classroom when my commitment is up. If you know you have something like that (a real passion for kids and good education) to keep you going, you would do well.
This message is becoming like a novel haha. For the application process, I only really have tips that apply to the final interview, so when you get to that hit me up. Be yourself in the application. TFA spends lots of time and money perfecting its selection model, so just trust it. Be yourself and if you are a good fit, you’ll be accepted.
Good luck! Let me know how the process goes.

2 Responses

  1. els

    I don’t know if it helps, but I wrote this post about the application process: http://stiruptheworld.teachforus.org/applying/.

  2. Eric

    As an applicant on the first deadline, I thought this and els’ comment was very helpful. My only critique was why this wasn’t on the Admissions blog in the first place! Wish I had seen this prior to the final round however I’m glad that you both gave some good advice, especially on the final round interviews.

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