Friday, August 14, 2009


My students, collaborative teaching team, and faculty adviser in Phoenix.

My TFA crew at a Rock n' Bowl party sponsored by TFA.

Making Moves

Last night I met with a first year, a second year, and my Program Director to help them write their unit plans. They both teach 4th grade, but at different schools. The second year informed me that the 5th/6th grade science/social studies teacher at her school quit this week. OOH!! I teach that! So I decided to go by the school this morning and get myself a job!!

I woke up at 7, printed out my resume, classroom management (rules and procedures) and investment plans, and drove out to Reed Elementary in New Orleans East. It's in an area that was hit pretty hard by Katrina and much of the population and businesses have not returned. On the 25 minute drive there, I listened to pump up jams, psyched myself up, and adopted a "today I will get a job" attitude. I even asked and answered interview questions out loud to myself. I was so ready. (Keep in mind I did not have an interview, or an appointment, or even a confirmation that they were hiring)

On the walk into the school (which is in a temporary trailer-like structure just like the school I visited on Wednesday), I said "Hello" to all the security guards and teachers (aka my future co-workers) and was totally excited to work there. I saw a banner from Dr. Seuss's Oh, the Places You'll Go! that read "Congratulations! Today is your day. You’re off to Great Places! You’re off and away!" EXCELLENT SIGN OF FATE, RIGHT?

I walked into the office and asked the secretary who I should speak to about applying for the 5th and 6th grade teaching position. She turned to another secretary and said, "Y'all gotta help her. I'm tired of bein' hollered at." mm. This great conversation ensued:

Secretary: "Do you have a resumé?"
Me: "Why yes! Yes I do." (handed her my impeccable resumé)
Secretary: (clearly impressed with the formatting and my gpa) "Ok the principal's busy. I'll give it to her."
Me: (not wanting to waste my skirt and suit jacket combo, curled hair and rouged cheeks) "Do you think she'll be available soon? Should I wait around for her?"
Secretary: "No. She'll get back to you on Monday; she's going out of town this weekend."
Secretary: (turning her back to me and focusing on her computer) "No ma'am."
Me: (didn't actually say this out loud) "So, did I get the job?"

*Reed Elementary Visitor Sign In/Out Form*
Name: Chloé LaPorte Time In: 9:43 a.m. Time out: 9:45 a.m.

Golden. They totally loved me.


Still no interview...or job.

Wednesday I observed a few classrooms and that was very interesting. The first was at a prep school--a 1st grade class taught by a second year corps member. Because it's the first days of school teachers are still teaching procedures. On the day I visited the students were learning how to be "silent knights." The teacher was showing the students how to get her attention--raising their hand. She asked the students to all raise their hands. One girl did not, and was looking the other way. The teacher marched over to the girl's desk, raised her hand for her by jerking it up into the air, and physically turned the girl's head toward the front of the room. *gasp*

Then the principal (a 30 something African American man) came in to observe. He walked around the room and moved students' hands so that they were folded on the desk in front of them in "silent knight position." I had never seen anything like this before. The teacher was so firm with the students it kind of intimidated me and was a bit of a wake-up call on what I might be expected to do in the classroom. Then the curriculum director came in to observe. She picked out students one by one who were misbehaving (like not paying attention or not sitting in crisscross applesauce) and took them into the hall. I was sitting near the back so I could hear the conversation. She got about 2 inches from the student's face and firmly said "You need to pay attention to Ms. __________ right now. Do you understand?" Student: "Yes" Curriculum Director: "YES MA'AM." eek!

Aside from me being totally frightened of these teachers and administrators and realizing I have to be a not-nice teacher, I went to visit another classroom and saw the opposite going on. This second year corps member was not firm at all, nor did he address minor misbehavior. His students were not paying attention at all, and he did not make as much progress in the time that I was in there as the other teacher did. Shoot.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Being Funemployed

This is my first blog as a Teach for America Corps Member. I am still unemployed as I have not been hired by a school yet. I decided it was about time I start blogging.

So I have finished my training in Phoenix ("institute") I taught 5th grade summer school and that was really intense, but also very cool. I learned A TON and met really great people. Now I am in NOLA and it's weird b/c I'm waiting to get placed at a school. I am qualified to teach elementary school...however I haven't been hired by a school yet. After institute, I thought I would be jumping right into school as soon as I got to New Orleans. However, the way TFA works is that I get hired by them and basically guaranteed a job in the city where they place me, but I have to interview with individual schools and get hired on my own.

The schools are so unorganized and chaotic here that many of them don't even know how many teachers they need to hire until school has already started. Some parents don't register their students until the first day of school so there's a lot of uncertainty and confusion right now. Also, teachers who quit wait until the school has already started so that they can keep their healthcare and other benefits over the summer. In addition, the LEAP test scores, the test that all Louisiana students take at the end of each school year that determine if the student has mastered that grade and can go onto the next, barely came out last week. That means that some students just found out that they actually can't go onto 4th grade and are held back. For these and other reasons, the schools are pretty unsure about the amount and kind of teachers they need.

I am in the Recovery School District (RSD) and Charter School pool still. RSD started Thursday. So it is a very real possibility I'll be placed at a school after it already started and will just have to jump into it and ROCK it. I am just waiting to hear back from all the schools that have my resume at this point. There's nothing really to do except plan and get organized but I don't even know what grade I'm teaching. It's a weird feeling.

I have written my classroom management and investment plans so far. I am observing a classroom tomorrow to see what it likes and what does and doesn't work. I am also meeting with my Program Director (PD) Jillian tomorrow to talk about my interview strategies. Just in case I am contacted and have to be there that day. I am also writing lesson plans for the first week of school that include teaching procedures and doing team building activities. That's about it.

I'm sure my posts will be increasingly more exciting, but I had to start somewhere. My days are also going to drastically change. For example, today I woke up at 8 to pick Christina, my roomie, up from the airport, ate breakfast, took a 2 hour nap, cleaned my room, ate lunch, wrote a it's 4 in the afternoon. Phew! Institute was a complete opposite of this and I'm sure real teaching will be too! That is all for now.