Ryan Erdmier

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Jul 04 2009

You only see the turn, you don’t see the road ahead.

This last week has been the precursor to the next two years of my life.  It is a scary yet inspiring statement to write.  Inspiring in the sense that the knowledge and experiences from this past week have begun to shape the teacher I will be. Scary in the way that you watch a hero fight a villain, yet you know that the hero will win.  The struggle is long and the hero has some good blows, but the villain has his fair share of blows as well.  This process is intense, yet I know that in the end, through perseverance and motivation toward closing the achievement gap, I will prevail.

Intense is the perfect word to describe the training institute process here in Los Angeles.  I wake up at 4:45 am and go to bed at 11:30 pm, if I’m lucky.  We wake, shower, eat breakfast at the University dining hall, and then grab our Subway lunches before we head to Huntington Park in order to learn about topics such as diversity, culture, asserting authority in your classroom, lesson planning, aligning lesson plans with the state standards for education, among many other meetings that will be key to our success as a teacher.  It’s been a weary week but I know that the students who are demonstrating less than 18% proficiency in reading and math at my school are depending on our leadership and effectiveness.  It is, after all, our responsibility.

The place I’m staying at is amazing.  Loyola Marymount University is absolutely stunning.  While I am not a fan of the city of Los Angeles, it is a beautiful location to have a university that overlooks all of LA and the ocean.  The Twin Cities charter corps has become unbelievably close to each other.  There are 44 teachers in the region and every one of us already knows each other.  The small size is a certain contributor, but the personality of each individual is the core of how we are all able to get along.  We are a mature group, all going through the same thing, with no alumni to reach out to from the Twin Cities corps.  I truly believe that being part of this corps region is a vital part to the reason I am enjoying institute so much.

Aspire Centennial College Preparatory school is where I will be teaching at this summer.  Sixth grade mathematics, with 100% Hispanic American student body.  We decided to have a college theme in our classroom, which was an interesting process.  Another teacher in my collaborative (there are four of us who share a classroom, but one of us has our own class for 50 mins a day) name Lan and I challenged a little rock, paper, scissors for the college we would represent in our class.  He, alumnus of University of Iowa, won however I could absolutely not accept representing a Hawkeye in the room that I will teach.  So after claiming that I would be an ineffective teacher in a classroom that supports poor athletics, we came to agreement on the University of Virginia.  No one is connected to the school and it has both good academics and an admirable athletic department, so it was a proper fit.

My first lesson in the UVA classroom is on comparing and ordering positive decimals.  This process through TFA requires writing a vision of the lesson plan, then working on a rough draft of the lesson plan, applying the backwards planning process, and then the final lesson plan.  They are approved by our corps member adviser, a former TFA teacher and our faculty advisor, a veteran teacher.  This will allow us to keep the Big Goal in mind as we work through each part of our lesson.  So far, all has gone well.  There is a lot that I have learned, but I know that there is so much more material and experience that I will be acquiring in the next four weeks, with Monday being the first day I will be in front of students.

Last night was our first time to relax.  Our Twin Cities region went to a happy hour at a local Mexican Restaurant and then returned for a little late night R and R.  There is no possible way to stay alive without remembering that you are a person outside of TFA, so this is a necessity that we have all more-than-willingly agreed to do on an every weekend basis.

One more thing that has been on my mind before I head to the beach.  My social awareness of differences and cultural sensitivity has been well established through my life experiences, volunteer work with social justice programs, study abroad, etc.  However there is one ginormous change that I will have to make in order to continue with TFA and its core beliefs of equity and it will take extensive efforts.  I have been told, and understand, that I need to stop using the word “guys” when referring to a large group of people containing both genders.  It seems incredibly nit-picky but I recognize and understand why this was asked of me.  While I understand how this may be excluding other identities, it has been something that is engraved in my vernacular as a true, small-town Sconnie.  It will be an interesting process but just as I eliminated such terms as “gay” or “retarded” from my vocab, this will have to go as well.

Being a leader requires being a role model.  For a student, there is a no more direct leader than your teacher.  You have to know what you expect of your students, care for them, and provide them with an example of what you expect of them.  For that reason, I understand that change in just one term needs to occur.

The change from Subway to Panera for lunches, my daily run to the ocean, and the introduction to my summer students are all that I hope to strive on for my second week.  I know that it will be solid.  That is all for now.  I will leave with two quotes, one TFA and another about the leadership I hope to embody for the summer.

“They don’t care what you know, until they know that you care.”

“The very essence of leadership is that you have to have vision.  You can’t blow an uncertain trumpet.” -Theodore Hesburgh

One Response

  1. Melody

    Hey Ryan-

    I got caught up reading your blog today, having stumbled upon it from your FB account. I really like your thoughts on teaching and life. You have a great writing voice too. I really admire you in your commitment to TFA, I’ve heard from my friends who were TFAers that it is a really intense experience.

    I have heard similar variations of those two good quotes:

    “Treat every child as the person he is capable of becoming.”

    “Without vision, the people perish.”

    Good luck on your “home stretch” of the year!

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