Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
May 22 2012

#38: Summer camp

This summer will be an interesting contrast to last.  At this time last year, I was gearing up for Institute while trying to wrap everything up at school.  Now, I’m anticipating doing some work with my new debate team, but spending a lot more time at home taking care of my wife who is incubating a peanut-sized vessel of our combined genes.

I’ve reflected about the Institute experience to people I know in real life.  It’s a perplexing experience, sort of a microcosm of my feelings about TFA in general.

  • Institute is a generally meaningful professional development experience.  I got loads more repetition writing lesson plans and near-daily feedback on my teaching practice.  I got exposed to some new ideas to implement in my classroom.  I got to see other people try things out, too.  I saw what worked well, what didn’t work so well.  I feel like many newish(1) teachers would benefit from this type of training as well(2).  Five weeks is definitely too short to be the only pre-service training you get, but there is a lot of stuff packed in those five weeks.
  • Many CMs treat this time as extended play on their undergrad years(3).  It was kind of unprofessional!  Maybe I’m just an old fogey, though(4)!
  • It is kind of ludicrous how well you are cared for.  I was at Houston Institute at Rice and there are seriously chefs preparing your meals(5).  The laundromat is free.  There’s WiFi everywhere.  There are shuttles to Target and the Galleria(6).  Your tax dollars at work, America!
  • FIND A GOOD PARTNER OR TWO.  I cannot stress this enough, you do not get style points for staying up until 3 and getting up at 4.  Split your workload and SHARE.  You don’t get points for originality, either.  Get to bed by midnight at the latest.  My co-teacher(7) and I and our cohort group worked really well together and I slept okay(8).  NO ONE-MAN WOLFPACKS PLEASE.

In conclusion, Institute is a strange, sorta-helpful, sorta-wasteful sleepaway camp for new teachers.  It is what you make of it.  Get better at teaching there, be responsible, and do not murder yourself with stress and no sleep.  Go out there and make us proud.



(1) Say, teachers who have taught 1-3 years or so?  The ones most vulnerable to leaving teaching?  MAYBE?

(2) Am I saying that Institute many of the benefits of Institute are wasted on non-teachers?  I never said that!  You are welcome to infer that, though, I won’t be mad.

(3) See note 2.

(4) Oh God, I am turning into my mother.

(5) Seriously!  And for a vegan, they did…a’ight.  I can’t complain.  I eat like a hog anyway so I sure as hell didn’t starve although there were some days I was like, “Y’all, hummus again?”

(6) Fancy shopping digs in Houston.

(7) True story: he teaches in the Valley (RGV) and we are still pals. Awww.

(8) 5-6 hours minimum, 7 hours if I was really stuntin’.

One Response

  1. G

    I totally agree with everything you posted here…especially #4 (and no, you are not an old fogey…or your mother!),

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San Antonio
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