Dreams in the Desert

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Aug 15 2012

Introduction: Years 0, 1, & 2

It’s my third year in my “placement school.” For all the non-TFA out there, basically it means I stayed. REWIND!


Back in my spring year of college, I learned about an organization that seemed to match up with my educational values, passions, and career goals. It was TFA. (At this point I’m not going to explain my naivete.)


I followed news of the organization closely and applied at the first deadline in September. I went directly from the first round to the third round, which requires an all-day interview with multiple segments and activities. I came out of it thinking I bombed. They asked me nothing about my experience with kids or college degree in education and instead focused the personal meeting on my “leadership position” in a small college organization. That month, M & I (my fiancée) researched all the different regions for TFA, since listing placement preferences is part of the application. I put Phoenix and elementary school as my number 2 choices. Atlanta (HA, HA, HA) and high school history was my first choice.


In November, I found out I’d been accepted, and I was offered a placement (not a job) in Phoenix doing elementary. Since this would entail more schooling (and more loans), I contacted TFA to discuss my options. Very surprisingly, they offered me a CHOICE! They said that since it was so early in the process, they could switch my “offer” to secondary social studies, but they warned me that those positions are few and far between, and I might have to teach another subject as well. They gave me 48 hours to decide.


So, I did what any sane person would do. I contacted everyone I knew via email, facebook, and phone, and pleaded for their advice. HA! After about 36 hours of thinking and obsessing and praying and talking, I decided that this was a once in a lifetime opportunity to diverge from my “Plan A” and experiment with elementary, something I had always been interested in (let’s ignore the inherent issues of not being certified for a very, very important job.) I called them back and told them I’d love to be an elementary school teacher. Between November and May, I signed what seemed like a bajillion papers, arranged the finances, student taught 10th grade, graduated, took an SEI class, got married, packed up our lives, and flew to Arizona.


The next day I got a phone call and had an interview right away. I didn’t even have the time or technology to print off a resume. My principal asked me the standard set of questions, one of which was “What interested you in this district?” to which I replied, “Quite frankly, I know nothing about the district, but I’m interested because you called me.” He laughed. At the end, he said he’d like to hire me as a 4th grade teacher.


Then, M & I lived through a 6 week long Institute. I think the name of it is pretty revealing. Only by the grace of God and newlywed “bliss” did we survive. At the end of Institute, we moved out nearby my school, and I found out I was to be 5th grade, departmentalized, reading and writing, with two classes of 30 kids each. My second year, I taught 1 class of reading, 1 class of science, and 4 class of writing. This of course was also while taking certification classes and adjusting to married life about 2000 miles away from anyone I knew. I’m actually quite amazed that things went as well as they did.

So, between student teaching, Institute, and the last two years, I’ve taught in rural, suburban, and urban schools. I’ve always taught in Title 1 or low-income schools. I’ve taught reading, writing**, social studies, science, and a dash of math to 10th graders, 7th graders, 5th graders, and 2nd graders.


This year I’m teaching five classes of 5th grade social studies, to 150 kids. It’s my favorite age level and my favorite subject. Bring it.

About this Blog

150 kids, 5th grade social studies. Love it.

Elementary School
Social Studies

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