The Ballerina Mathematician

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
May 22 2012


It’s incredible that tomorrow is the last day teaching at my school.  On Thursday my 8th graders “continuate” and then I begin a venture into the world of charter schools.  I can hardly believe my TFA experience is ending, but of course we all know that it’s just the corps member component that’s coming to a close, and now begins the important work of alumni hood.

I have such mixed emotions about the upcoming changes in my teaching career.  I am impressed with the number of CMs in my region who are teaching a third year, and simply amazed at the number who are staying in their placement school.  Forget the reputation TFA has for “two and done” – our corps is rocking the classroom!  That’s awesome and exciting, but I still have such guilt for leaving my placement school, even though I’m teaching a third year.  I shouldn’t be guilty.  My school only has one more year open so everyone is leaving anyway, if not this year than next.  Not to mention it is the worst school in the district – the one everyone refers to as “well as least you done work at _______.”  It has done quite a number on my sanity and emotional well-being.  I would not physically survive a third year, let alone desire to attempt it.

And yet somehow my decision to leave my school and continue teaching the exact same content area and grade level to the same population to kids at a more functioning school causes me a lot of excitement and a big twinge of guilt.  I can’t wait for professional development to start in July, even if it cuts my summer short.  I can’t wait to work at a school with sound structures, solid systems, and a successful past.  There is stability there (not something I’ve experienced at my placement school at all!!) and an immense amount of positivity from students, staff, and leaders.  I’ll be getting tons of feedback so I can grow as a teacher, which I am so very eager to hear.  I’m going to be surrounded by inspring people working as hard as I do.  I could not be happier to be moving there.

I’m very interested to experience the contrasts between public and charter schools.  I spent two years in the lowest-performing middle school in the district (among the top 10 lowest in the entire state) and now I’m going to one of the best.  Same kids, different plan, different results.  I want to know what success looks like, and I’m going to see it.  I already have from my interview and school visit.  It’s phenomenal, inspiring, energizing, positive.  There’s such push back against charters and I usually support charter schools, but now I’m going to have the experience to really make a case of public vs. charter.

I had an excellent and inspiring conversation with my MTLD last night to close out the year.  I love reflecting on my progress and how I’ve developed as a teacher and a leader and where I’m going to go with that in the future.  She asked me how many years I envision staying in the classroom.  It’s funny, because a recent survey I took asked me the same question and I was forced to enter a number into a box.  I still struggle with it.  I know for a fact that I am going to be involved in education for the rest of my life.  Every TFA alum has their own path towards solving educational inequity and I know mine is in the education system.  So I’ll be a part of it…but how long I’ll be a teacher?  I love the idea of leadership but know I’m nowhere near ready to take that on.  I can imagine that being a path for me much later.  I also have this dance passion that I want to capitalize on – how can I start a dance program at my school?  Will I stay a teacher or will I end up running a program, therefore “leaving the classroom”?

So many thoughts and so many feelings!  Finishing TFA is quite the roller coaster.  My last day of work is Thursday, and at 3:30 AM Friday I leave my apartment to begin my trip to Paris.  I’ve never been out of the country (I know, I know) and I am beyond excited that I’ll finally have the chance.  I’ll be celebrating my two years in TFA, celebrating leaving my school and starting somewhere new where I’ll be happy, and spending 12 days with the love of my life.  Not a bad way to end this crazy experience, huh?

4 Responses

  1. Tee

    It’s not the “same kids.” Charter schools tend to under-enroll students with disabilities and English-language learners. They also tend to have higher drop-out rates for black males. That said, good luck.

    • BallerinaMathematician

      Tee, I totally get that argument and I know it’s true for some schools. Luckily, the specific school I’m working at has the same percentage of SpEd and actually a higher percentage of ELL students than my current school. Their community is predominantly Latino – 98% I think – so I can’t speak to the black male component. I definitely brought all that up in the interview because I wanted to know right from the start though.

      • Tee

        That’s fantastic. Is this a part of a larger charter network, or is it a single school?

        • BallerinaMathematician

          Oh! I’m so sorry for such a late response. It’s part of a network.

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a dancer's adventure in teaching math

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