Pass The Chalk Editorial Team

Twenty years ago today, on September 12, 1994, the first class of 20,000 AmeriCorps members began serving in more than 1,000 communities nationwide. At the swearing in ceremony, President Clinton described service as “a spark to rekindle the spirit” – asking the newly minted members, “What is right? What is wrong? And what are we going to do about it?”

I joined the staff of Teach For America nine years ago, and over that almost decade I’ve had the occasion to make a lot of mistakes and the opportunity to learn from them.  These learnings cover a wide array of topics and situations, from budgeting to public speaking to management, but when I reflect on where I’ve faced the greatest challenges and learned the most, the answer is clear:  I’ve had to think more about race, class, privilege, and my own personal identity in ways that I never had to before, and my very way of seeing and experiencing the world has shifted as a result.

Last week, we read Dana Goldstein’s piece in Vox about the evolution of Teach For America. We’ve posted some reflections below, and would love to continue the dialogue here on Pass The Chalk. Please share your own thoughts and reactions—your voice helps us get better.

Today, an article in the Denver Post reported that districts in Colorado aren’t enticed by Teach For America’s efforts  to recruit and support teachers of color. Though Teach For America-Colorado is not the sole solution to building a more diverse talent pipeline in high-needs schools, we were disheartened to see how this article misrepresented our strong partnerships with schools across the state, as well as our local impact and retention.

Route 11 cuts a path through Clay County, Kentucky—the spring green hillsides a visual history of Appalachia’s last 50 years. Idled mines sit behind large, ornate gates where proud men once passed. The large bricked homes of middle- and upper-income Clay Countians nestle next to small, wood-sided homes and trailers where it’s hard to imagine children laying their heads each night. The signs of long-ago-closed mom-and-pop shops still advertise the $4 daily lunch special.

Robyn Fehrman

Last week, the school board of Durham Public Schools opted not to extend its contract with TFA. Durham is one of the 18 communities in North Carolina with which TFA partners and, as the district where I send my 5-year-old to kindergarten every morning, it’s a place that matters to me deeply. While I am proud to know that so many parents and principals contacted the board to express their support for continued partnership and describe the influence corps members have in their students’ lives, I also worry about the implications of the decision.

Graduates of the Tennessee school system will soon have the prettiest handwriting in America. While most states have written off penmanship as recommended under the Common Core standards, Tennessee is requiring that penmanship classes remain in the curriculum

Amanda Dees

(Photo of Amanda Dees and her adoptive parents)

(Photo credit: Chicago 2016)

As a doctoral student in education and psychology, I am exploring the diversity of attitudes black teachers have toward race and its place in American education today. 

Blair Mishleau portrait

(Photo Credit:  Renee Barron

Next week, I begin year three in the classroom. This was a choice I had been planning on since before I joined the ’12 corps. I knew I would teach at least three years. It was one of the only things I was very sure of, for some unknown reason.


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We believe education is the most pressing issue facing our nation. On Pass the Chalk, we'll share our takes on the issues of the day, join the online conversation about education, and tell stories from classrooms, schools, and communities around the nation.

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The thoughts, ideas, and opinions expressed on Pass the Chalk are the responsibility of individual bloggers. Unless explicitly stated, blog posts do not represent the views of Teach For America as an organization. 

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