Year One

Hump Day

Year One


How to take the ALS #IceBucketChallenge when you’re a teacher and fed up with the fact everyone now knows what the challenge is, but no one knows what ALS is.

  1. Set aside 45 minutes of your lesson plan on a Friday for culture building.
  2. Teach your students about the need to stay up to date on current events, and the even greater need to be able to discuss and debate them in an articulate manner.
  3. Discuss and define “slacktivism” through the examples of Livestrong bracelets, #BringBackOurGirls, Kony 2012, etc.
  4. Introduce the #IceBucketChallenge by watching the video of a favorite celebrity. I went with Taylor Swift, but I would have chosen this one if it had been uploaded sooner.
  5. Ask your students if they’ve heard of this before. All of their hands will go up.
  6. Ask your students if they know how it started. Crickets.
  7. Ask if they know what ALS is. One brave soul will venture a guess – “it’s a kind of cancer?”
  8. Watch this video about ALS. Explain the need for ALS research.
  9. Read two articles about the #IceBucketChallenge. This one and this one.
  10. Split the class into two teams to debate the articles and argue the
    merit of the #IceBucketChallenge.
  11. Let your students dump a bucket of ice water on your head to raise awareness for a disease that has no cure, that destroys your body while leaving your mind unaffected, and that kills within 2-5 years of diagnosis.


Year One

Day 2

Things You Learn After The Second Day of School:

1. All students really want is for class to be fun.

2. Also, candy.

3. 90 minutes is a less surprisingly long amount of time when you learn it’s actually 108 minutes.

4. Stop packing quinoa for lunch. You’re never gonna eat it.

5. They’re not impressed. “I heard Obama speak, then shook his hand. I also heard Joe Biden speak, then I took a selfie with him.” “Hold up Ms. Abram!! Why didn’t you take a selfie with Obama?”

Year One

Day 1

Things You Learn After The First Day of School:

1. Heels are a bad idea.

2. You probably don’t need to be an hour and half early…but you will be again tomorrow just in case.

3. 90-minutes is a surprisingly long amount of time.

4. You should pack more foods you actually enjoy for lunch, and less quinoa.

5. Planning periods are sacred.



NB: you should watch that video from the last post first but I guess I can’t make you if you don’t wanna

TFA, and much modern teaching scholarship, believes in the power of the pod. They love group projects, and class brainstorming, and whole lessons dedicating to sharing identity trees and stories of self. We’re encouraged to change the arrangement of desks from a grid to groups of 4, allowing students to face each other and talk about the WHY of the material at hand.

They’ll understand it faster in group. They’ll learn better. They’ll be more engaged. They’ll become smarter.

A month ago I was snuggled up in my seat on that bandwagon. But now, I’m having a horrible time trying to balance everything I have learned from that video (you should read the book too!) with all of the TFA kool-aid I’ve been supplied with.

I am extremely introverted. On Myers-Briggs tests, I typically scored between 90-100% on the introvert/extrovert scale. I hate crowds, small talk, and strangers. I love (shocker) hiding behind my computer screen to share my thoughts, primarily because it gives me the extra time to think about what I’m going to say. I can draft and redraft and google synonyms and definitions and I am at peace.

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As I begin to plan out my classroom, I often think about my likes and dislikes as a student. Now, I have tried to look at my experiences as an introverted student.

I had seven classes each year in high school. Teachers were required to give personalized comments on report cards after the first and third quarters. Every year, seven out of seven teachers would comment something like this:

“Rachael is a delight to have in class. She demonstrates solid understanding of the material on tests and quizzes. I wish she would participate more in class.”

(Except in Contemporary World History Honors. Then she’d make a comment about how my DBQ grades were “improving,” but still include a jab about my perpetual silence in class.)

I hated group projects. Nothing caused me more anxiety in high school, or college or life in general, than the phrase “find a partner.” No. Let me work alone I understand the material by myself I don’t want to deal with anyone else.

I hated speaking in class. The only question I ever asked was, “may I go to the bathroom?” Thankfully I was rarely, if ever, called on in class. If a teacher had cold called me and asked what I thought about chapter whatever, I would have clammed up, mumbled, and shared a mishmash of hastily chosen terms.

I wanted to sit alone, and work alone. I wanted to listen to the teacher lecture about the Ming dynasty or polynomials, and if I had a question, I would flip back in the book and figure it out myself.

Those comments on my report card made me feel like something was wrong with me. Was I supposed to speak in class? What if I didn’t have anything to say? Did I need to participate in class in order to be successful? I was getting an A in the class without participating, so how would that help?

I don’t ever want my kids to feel like that. They and you and we and all of us are perfect exactly as we are. I don’t want to convince my kids they need go become extroverts to be successful. You are a valid human being just the way you are right now. Don’t change.

How can I help my kids believe that if I’m constantly shoving them in groups and making them tell me their deepest life stories on the first day of school?



After talking to others and many of my TFA pals (yes look I am social be proud everyone), I’ve gathered that thus far I’ve had an atypical Teach for America experience.

Most CMs hate institute. It’s known as six weeks of sleepless misery, and in fact there are countless blog posts and articles written about how to survive institute. Just google “how to survive TFA institute” and you’d think I spent the summer living in the 9th circle of hell.

I loved institute. Loved my school loved my kids loved my collab loved the structure.

Most CMs teach a class of 5-10 students at institute, often in a different subject or grade level than what they’ll be teaching in their region. So then, once they leave institute, they have classes of 30+ kids and they struggle with behavior management. They also likely now teach 5-6 periods of the same class a day, so in total they’ve got around 150-180 names to learn and papers to grade.

I taught 25-ish students Coordinate Algebra over the summer. So I should be better prepared, yah? Same number of kids, same subject, same grade level.

HAHAH no. My school has four, 90 minute class periods. I teach three of the four. I teach three different classes: Algebra 1, Math 1, and Probability & Statistics. Every night I will prepare three lesson plans for the next day – three different homeworks, three different tests, etc. Most of my friends (yes I have friends) have 1-2 preps. Like they might teach six classes a day, but it’s all biology and so it’s one lesson plan. They have one prep. I have three. THREE.

Also, my classes range in size from 8 to 13 kiddos. That’s all. They’re nuggets and I love them already. I’m so excited to have small classes – it’s just the total opposite of what I was expecting. I get to meet the freshmen this week at orientation! EEK what goobers.

ALAS so if you need me I’ll be busy googling “how to survive TFA life.”