Be confident. Work hard. 24/7. Have fun. Be honest with yourself. Be nice. Stay close to your students. Reflect daily. Use data, not your feelings. Focus on the achievement gap. Tackle it. Work as part of a team. Invest in students and parents. Be humble. Learn. Remember that you’re a change agent.
These were just some of the words that one of the speakers on a panel discussing TFA’s Theory of Change left with us on Tuesday when my induction to the TFA-SLA 2010 corps began.
Over the past four days, I have learned so much about education reform, the state of education in Louisiana and greater Baton Rouge, the TFA-SLA corps and the role I play here in closing the achievement gap from inside my (future) classroom.
We’ve heard the best and the worst stories of the expectations for students within the education system in Baton Rouge. One story was about a valedictorian at a public high school here, who, despite making a 4.0 throughout high school, couldn’t achieve a high enough score on the ACT to qualify for a TOPS scholarship (tuition @ any Louisiana state school)…. the minimum score is 17. Another, a girl who did make an adequate ACT score, wasn’t properly advised to take physics as part of a college-prep track… her counselor thought that “she wouldn’t go to college.” However, today we met with four young people who are involved in a slam poetry group at the local teen center. Each of them are college-bound, including one who is going on a poetry scholarship– all of them have had at least one TFA teacher. They even performed a few of their poems for us! Literally hundreds of TFA teachers across the region are raising the standards and expectations for thousands of students like these.
TFA-SLA Mafia: We are quickly realizing how close-knit the SLA corps is (it is described by a number of program directors here as the SLA Mafia). Nearly 60% of our alumni have stayed on teaching for at least a third year and many more are still local in Baton Rouge. There are a few who now hold positions in the school administration and work in the LA Department of Education. One ’02 alum who hosted me for dinner last night is now the assistant principal at a local elementary school, where about 80% of the staff is TFA! They are all truly doing awesome things in Louisiana.
I’ve met the 100 some CMs in my corps year and a great bunch of ’09 CMs and some ’08s too (new alumni!). I’ve been hosted in their homes and apartments for meals and get-togethers and they’ve taken me all over the city to see the neighborhoods and resources. I’ve interviewed with four schools and really rocked one today for a biology/environmental science position at a turnaround charter high school. I just got back from one refreshing dip in the hotel pool this afternoon: the truth is, it’s hot here (but I’m not complaining yet).
Tonight is our closing dinner and tomorrow is our Praxis testing. We all head to the Delta for Institute on Sunday. Peace from SLA!