Anthony DelaRosa

It’s time laced with sacrifice/Late nights and hoping for better mornings/It’s working countless hours beyond getting paid/It’s trying, failing, trying again and learning/Like Band-Aids to stretch, cover up, and heal quickly/Because there’s always work to do…

It was only after I heard these words from my mentor and colleague Camea Davis, who served as a Teach For America (TFA) corps member in Indianapolis, that teaching started to make sense to me. Her narrative—100% unapologetic and all-organic—completely spoke to me a teacher-leader and poet.  

Camea and I, along with two other TFA alumni from Indianapolis, Daniel Harting and Lauren Hall, started Indy Pulse to bring spoken word poetry to Indianapolis’ classrooms. We support our youth as they cultivate their own voices, empowering them to craft meaningful life paths and promote positive change for themselves and their communities. 

Jovian Z. Irvin

I wonder if my daughter will be proud of me. I’m not a parent yet, but I hope to be in the coming years. As I reflect on the state of race relations in America, I wonder if I’m doing enough to make my daughter proud. Am I doing enough to change the America she will inherit, or will she ask me the same question I asked my parents years ago?

Many of us pat ourselves on the back because we’re working for mission-driven nonprofits like Teach For America, volunteering at the Boys and Girls Club, or even committing our summers to teaching English to immigrants. We regularly hashtag controversial tweets, and sometimes post prophetic essays on Facebook to share with all of our like-minded friends. Why shouldn’t we feel good about ourselves? We’re not part of the problem. We don’t perpetuate the systems of oppression that fuel the very existence of our nonprofit jobs or summer internships. Why should we feel held accountable for the state of America that our parents left us? After all, we’re doing “the work.”

Erica Monrose

This week, the White House outlined plans to improve early childhood education, a cause that has been publicly endorsed by the President for many years. In a speech on Wednesday, President Obama announced that $1 billion will be set aside to fund various early education initiatives that promise to produce better outcomes for students. See what other news had us talking this week. 

Stephenie Johnson

“Which famous figure helped Lewis and Clark cross the western portion of the United States?” To this day, this question sticks out in my mind as representative of those on the teacher certification exam that I took during my first year in the classroom as a fifth grade special education teacher. It struck me as a simplistic question then, and even more so now, as I realize how the exam required mostly rote memorization and underestimated what it would take for me to be a great teacher. Not only should I have had a more challenging test for what to teach, but my knowledge of how to teach and my ability to lead my students through a lesson, start to finish, were never examined.

Teach For America (TFA) recognizes the potential of high-achieving young people who want to make an impact through teaching. TFA certainly expected excellence from me and prepared me for the instructional and behavioral challenges I faced in the classroom. But the exams that I took in Louisiana barely touched on the knowledge I had gained during my training. And worse, the license I obtained was not recognized by Massachusetts when I moved there to attend graduate school. Sadly, my situation is not unique.

It’s Computer Science Education Week (December 8-14)! Join Teach For America and millions of students worldwide and participate in the Hour of Code to increase awareness of and access to computer science.

As the lead for Teach For America’s STEM Initiative, I work to help ensure all students have access to a great STEM education. It shouldn’t be the lucky few who get to pursue STEM; all kids deserve these opportunities. Computer science was my gateway to such a path, and with so many free computer science resources now available, I’m excited about their potential to ignite a passion for computer science (and STEM) in and out of classrooms all across the country.

I had the good fortune to study electrical engineering in college, teach high school science to the incredible students of Buckeye Union High School in Arizona as a Teach For America corps member, and earn my PhD in bioengineering. But I suppose the word “fortune” doesn’t accurately describe my journey because these opportunities didn’t happen by chance: an entire ecosystem of committed individuals across education, business, and my Central Florida community came together to create these opportunities.

Pass the Chalk

 

As a middle schooler at KIPP DC KEY Academy, Nathan Woods admits he “wasn’t always the ideal student.” But his teachers stood by him through thick and thin. Even after Nathan moved on to high school, his KIPP teachers continued to have a major presence in his life, attending his sports games and providing emotional support during times of family tragedy.

“I had planned to go to law school, but in thinking about all the sacrifices, and the unwavering support my teachers and my family have provided me, I made the decision to pay it forward,” Nathan writes. “I decided to become a teacher.”

I am in knots over the deaths of Eric Garner, Mike Brown, Tamir Rice, Ezell Ford, Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis, and too many others. As the mother of three black boys, I am sick about it. My boys know what’s going on; the news is always on in our house, in our car. My oldest is only 12, but I think he and his 9-year-old brother are already becoming desensitized. We talk about it—a lot. They know what’s happening is wrong, but I don’t think they’ve fully internalized how personal it is. For now, I count this as a blessing, but I know it’s only temporary. We live in the Bronx. This summer my 12 year old took his first solo subway ride. It won’t be long before he has his own story to tell.

As parents, we spend so much time teaching our children the importance of telling the truth, even and especially when you do something wrong. Juries are supposed to deliver verdicts that tell us the truth. What do we tell our children when adults don’t seem to value truth—when even something we have all seen with our own eyes is dismissed?

Taylor Williams

It’s Computer Science Education Week (December 8-14)! This Thursday, join Teach For America and millions of students worldwide and participate in the Hour of Code to increase awareness of and access to computer science.

Access to computer science is increasingly important for all students. While there are some students who will decide to pursue a career in the field, all students will benefit from engaging in computational thinking, something often heralded as a new form of literacy. Efforts like the Hour of Code, the TEALS program, and the forthcoming AP Computer Science Principles course are all fantastic initiatives that are bringing much-needed public attention to this issue. Currently, nine out of ten schools don’t offer computer programming classes. Last year, only 711 students in my home state of Washington took the AP Computer Science A test. Only 12 of them identified as black and 24 identified as Hispanic. Student participation and performance in computer science has long been bifurcated along lines of race, class, and gender. These are urgent issues that demand attention.

Gary James

My heart is heavy after the non-indictment decisions for the police officers who killed Michael Brown and Eric Garner. My heart isn’t heavy because the indictment decisions were a surprise. It’s heavy because the decisions weren’t a surprise. It’s heavy because I can recount at least two of my own interactions with the police where I questioned my safety. It’s heavy because a black person is killed by the police, a security guard, or vigilante on average every 28 hours. And it’s heavy because many of the kids and communities our corps members serve may internalize the idea that their lives don’t matter to the majority of the country, that they or their loved ones are just a bullet or negative interaction away from becoming a hashtag.

In our work, we focus on the way the education system doesn’t work for all kids, specifically poor kids and kids of color. But disparities in the education system are just one example of the disparities that exist in most systems in our country. The financial system. The economic system. The criminal justice system. Our systems of housing, voting, immigration, and the list goes on. It’s not just that these systems are broken. It’s that they were not designed to include all Americans. One quote I’ve seen recently and repeatedly is that “a system cannot fail those it was never designed to protect.” That’s a heavy statement. It’s an uncomfortable statement. But I think it’s one we should sit with. Sometimes we have to just sit with discomfort because we can’t always tie the truth with a bow.

While a standard college curriculum calls for four years of classroom instruction, the majority of American students spend more than four years in college. The Washington Post explains why so many American students require extra time and money to get a degree. Check out the other stories that got us talking this week.

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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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