We're excited to highlight the journey of one of our corps members, who will be a featured guest blogger during her 2nd year in the classroom. Check back for updates on her experience and resources she’ll use with her elementary students!
September 15, 2017
My name is Samantha Macy, and I just started my second year of teaching first grade at Brown Elementary School in Jackson, Mississippi. I'm originally from Michigan, and graduated from Western Michigan University.
Before I moved to Mississippi, I didn't know what to expect. As a junior applicant, my admission to TFA and my placement in Mississippi were both surprising to me.* Teaching in the Delta meant diving into an unknown. I had never been to Mississippi before moving here, and I was admitted to TFA early, when I still had a year of college left. This allowed me more time to make the decision to come here, but also meant that I had a lot of time to reflect on my decision. I actually had some doubt until May, when I had a phone interview with the principal at my school. She called me back a few hours later, and I accepted. Suddenly, it felt so concrete - I wasn't just going to teach elementary school somewhere in Mississippi, I was going to teach at Brown Elementary School in Jackson, which was a real school that I could look up on Google Maps.
I came to Mississippi and took part in Institute at Delta State University, where I taught math to incoming third graders. Looking back, I enjoyed my Institute experience. I heard that it would be intense, but I found the workload to be manageable compared to my last year of college. I really appreciated that Institute was immediately applicable - I would learn about something in a session and then be able to use it the next day.
After Institute, I moved to Jackson and prepared to start teaching third grade at my school. I didn't know what to expect - I knew it would be different from Institute but I didn't have a great sense of how it would be different. I wondered how to plan meaningful first-week activities that would fill up an entire day or an entire week.Additionally, I only had seven kids in my class, which meant that my school couldn't justify having two classes of third grade. At the end of the first week, my class was combined with another corps member's class, and I went to co-teach second grade with a veteran teacher. Eventually, I moved to first grade, teaching a class that went the first five weeks of the school year without a certified teacher. This showed me the reality of what educational inequity means, and the way that teacher shortages can have a huge impact on kids.
My first year of teaching was not all hugs and high-fives from the start. It took time to develop my own strategies to manage my classroom alone while working closely with an assistant teacher, especially when it came to consistent consequences while addressing the challenge of short first-grade attention spans and physical needs that first graders have. So, going into my second year, management was my top priority for my own development. I’ll be implementing teaching routines that worked last year and am always seeking ways to keep learning fun and engaging. I can see how lesson plans built on interaction, not just worksheets, delights my students and drives them towards more complex reasoning. I have invested time in teaching routines until my class got them right, working on being consistent with consequences and rewards and I already knew where the potential trouble spots would be in my class. I'm also working out ways that my classroom can be more engaging. I'm getting my lesson plans away from worksheets and focusing on more interaction, and pushing my kids towards more complex reasoning.
*Though during the time of Samantha’s application process corps members were placed directly by Teach For America, the process now includes a consultation period in which applicants can learn more about and preference regions where they would like to be placed.