This is the second installment of ENC Corps Member stories. I have a few more to post and would love to hear from any other ENC CMs out there who would be willing to answer some questions. Contact info is here.
“Ms. South” is a current 2nd year ENC high school teacher. Here is her take on the region and on TFA in general.
I ranked this region as my first choice. Since I am from the South, I wanted to stay close to home. I had never lived in a big city and was afraid that I would not be able to adapt easily to an urban lifestyle. I also ranked Nashville and Hawaii highly. I knew Hawaii was really rural!
What was your original placement? (ie: Secondary Math, Elementary Lower Grades, etc.) What are you teaching now/ what have you taught?
Originally I was placed to teach High School Physical Science. Initially, I taught Life Science. During my second year, I began teaching a Physical Science
How did you feel about your institute experience?
-Did you feel prepared to lesson plan? Yes
-Did you feel prepared to teach? Yes
-Did you feel prepared to manage a classroom? Yes
-What did you like and/or dislike about Institute specifically?
I felt Institute adequately prepared me to plan lessons and manage a classroom. It gave me the courage to enter the classroom on day one. However, I did not learn how to create resources or how to ask for them. Also, planning a 50 minute lesson is very different than planning a 1 hour and 40 minute lesson. I also struggled with determining reasonable amounts of work to grade. I felt extremely overwhelmed my first 4 months of school. I stayed up really late most nights and was constantly stressed out.
Describe your school.
I teach in a small, rural, public, high school. 95% of our student population is black, 4% white, and 1% other. “Other” includes 3 Hispanic students and two Indian children. Most of our students eat free lunch and live in the projects.
People say that TFA is “hard”, but that covers a lot of ground. How (in what ways) or why has TFA specifically been hard for you?
TFA is hard because you can’t slack. There is no wiggle room. All of your actions directly impact the lives of other people. You can’t sleep in when it’s been a bad day. You can’t go home and rest – you have work to do. It’s a very difficult transition from college. The freedom we had grown so accustomed to is no longer present. Also, the amount of responsibility is indefinite depending on your placement school. Program Director expectations and principal expectations vary from school to school. Every corps member has a different experience. Some struggle more with the issues that preside in their community. Some struggle with the lack of resources they have been provided. It’s difficult to pinpoint “how” TFA is hard because it is difficult for so many reasons.
What has been your worst experience in the classroom?
I had a student threaten to harm the other students. This was a difficult situation to mediate while keeping everyone calm, safe, and removing the angry student.
What has been your best experience in the classroom?
In my class where only 30% of students were expected to pass their End of Course Exam- 100% of my students passed! When I called them out one by one and they slowly started realizing everyone had passed, the energy built exponentially and the end celebration was the highlight of my teaching experience. They jumped up and down, screamed and some even cried. They were called down to the front of the auditorium during an end of year assembly and recognized by the whole school for their accomplishment. Even the toughest kids were proud of what they had done.
What is your life like outside the classroom?
I didn’t really have one my first year. School was my life. During my second year, I really learned how to manage my time and I enjoy my evenings and weekends. I get to work out and enjoy the hobbies I love. I also love how close our corps has become because there are so few of us in the rural area. I cherish these friendships and the time we have shared so much.
Why did you join TFA?
I wanted to feel like I actually changed someone else’s life for the better – typical college idealism.
If you knew what you know now, would you still apply to TFA?
Yes, this experience has helped me grow in ways I never imagined. AND I really did change people’s lives for the better
What are your plans for when/if you finish your TFA commitment?
Graduate School – Science Field