Wednesday, July 14, 2010

In Honor of the Last Week of TFA Houston Institute

The new class of Teach for America corps members in Houston are about to finish their summer institute this Friday.  Soon after they'll be dispersing to Dallas, Houston, Jacksonville, Miami-Dade, San Antonio and of course the Rio Grande Valley.  In honor of this time, I have a little of my own Institute experience to share.

On or around this day seven years ago, when I was just a clean-shaven, impossibly young-looking corps member, our adviser asked us to write a letter to ourselves that she would send to us at the end of our first year.  It arrived as promised, and gives a unique window into what I was going through at that time.
Dear Tom,

It is the third-to-last day of Institute and it's time to set some goals for yourself/myself.  These are the thing I have faith you will have improved upon by the time you receive this letter:
  • Be an assertive, effective classroom [manager] (aka "Handle Your Business" and "Be the teacher!")
  • Let your enthusiasm and energy flow freely towards your students
  • Continue to reflect constantly on effectiveness of lessons and focus on goals
  • Have procedures and systems in place
  • Differentiate
  • Reach out to all learners
  • Make sure I'm including all students in the classroom
  • student-centered lessons!
  • develop better "with it"-ness
  • Start some clubs (film, history, service, etc)
  • Have and use effective consequences
  • Use the word "effective" more often
  • Learn to salsa*
  • Don't lose my perspective or sense of humor about this job or life in general.
Do these things and very good teacher you will be, mmmm, yes! -> Yoda

Peace in the Middle East,

Read more about my Institute experience, including what I wrote in my proposed speech for the closing ceremonies.

*I have not, as of yet, learned to salsa.