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Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Feb 13 2011

My TFA experience thus far

I thought it would be nice to chronicle my TFA experience thus far.

I applied in October during the 3DL. I waited until the last day to submit my application, to ensure that everything was in order. I must have had 5 drafts of my personal statement before I trashed them all and just wrote. I was so anxious from the moment I pressed submit.

I was fairly confident that I would be granted a phone interview. I stressed over the phone interview, preparing all kinds of responses that I imagined I would be asked. That was all for nothing, haha! My interview was rough. I stumbled helplessly with the FIRST question. I actually had to pause and apologize and my interviewer told me to take a deep breath and to start over. I did, and after that I fell into the interview more naturally. Some of my answers took a moment too long to come to. I think some of my responses were depressing and/or morbid. I thought it was a flop! I mentally prepared myself to ‘try again next year.’

And then I found I was invited to the in-person interview day! I was shocked, to say the least. Interestingly, that shock gave way to confidence. I started believing that this notion of mine- becoming a teacher- was not all that an incredible proposition. Maybe I had the stuff after all. Between the notification day and the interview day I devoured the pre-readings and worked my way through the online activity. I started researching on my own and developing my own feelings about education in America. I became more and more passionate about this endeavor and my desire to join TFA increased tenfold.

My biggest concern in preparing for the final interview was the 5-minute sample teaching lesson. I wanted to do something engaging. I decided on a geology lesson, modified from a lab I actually completed in college geology involving Milky Way bars. My second biggest concern was what to wear! I am a jeans and hoodie kind of gal. I hate shopping. I had to have my little sister accompany me to the mall to pick out something appropriate :P

I hardly slept the night before interview day. I practiced my lesson over and over on the drive to Rutgers. Luckily, they schedule the lesson plans first, to get all of that tension out of the air. I went about half-way through, after some really amazing ‘acts to follow.’ I think I shook the whole time, but I timed everything right on the dot and I felt it was successful. I was thrilled and flattered when most of my fellow interviewees complimented me during the break. The group exercise was not that stressful, though there is always some jockeying involved in a group activity. The individual assessment went equally smooth. I enjoyed it actually, haha. I had a long break following the test before my individual interview. I thought a lot about the mock situation we were given, reviewed my readings, my resume and personal statement. My interviewer was really great and made me feel so comfortable. I felt like I gave concise and honest answers and kept my fingers crossed.

The 6-week wait was torture. I changed my mind every other day about whether or not I would be offered a position. Notification day was January 18, after 6:30 I think. I was out all day, but came home at around 5:00 to wait. When I got home- there it was! An e-mail from TFA congratulating me on my acceptance and directing me to log-in to view my assignment. That moment of extreme elation was… deflated, once I logged in.

I was assigned to teach 4-8 grade science in the Rio Grande Valley. I didn’t even remember selecting that as one of my preferred regions- that’s how little I expected the assignment. I had such complicated feelings. I won’t go into details, but my life was turned on its head a few months ago. I couldn’t face the thought of a (second) major move. I requested a regional reassignment which I learned was available in extreme or extenuating circumstances and it was granted. When I found out about the Newark reassignment, my confirmation and commitment was instantaneous.

Since committing I have been working through some of the activities and studying for the Praxis. I have to take two Praxis II tests- Elementary Education Content Knowledge and Middle School Science. Unfortunately, they are both offered at the same time so I am taking Middle School Science on March 12th and Elem. Ed on April… 30th? I am very nervous about the former. I have a B.S. but it is not in a hard science. I don’t have experience outside of high school with astronomy, physics, or chemistry- all of which are tested on the Praxis. I have found every study guide that I can and have been in the ‘preliminary study stage’ which transitions into ‘Praxis Boot Camp’ tomorrow. I will be studying 8-10 hours a day for the next 27 days. If I don’t pass, then there is one more exam date in June but it is not recommended by TFA because it cuts it close for certification turn around. So, not passing can’t be an option. Studying is truly my full-time job (+ overtime) for now.

I’m hoping I will look back at this sometime in the next two years and laugh about how anxious and nervous I had been every step of the way in this process.

6 Responses

  1. elsa

    oh my gosh it’s like reading my own brain! I totally went through a lot of the same things, down to forcing myself to go clothes shopping for an interview outfit :)

    • justcallmemaestra

      Agreed. I had an outfit, but other than that, my experience was really similar! Good luck with Praxis exams! :)

      • erinkay

        It’s comforting to know we all went through such mental anguish along this journey! The end result made it all worthwhile though, right?

  2. loulou

    I’m assigned to middle school science as well (and I only took one college-level science class, a looong time ago), but TFA had me take the “more rigorous” general science test. I studied a lot (though no where NEAR 8 hours a day) and it was hard — but I passed with a pretty good margin. And from what I can tell, the middle school science test would have been a whole bunch easier.

    So definitely study, but try not to stress — I’d be willing to bet it’ll be easier than you expect. I used this study guide: http://www.amazon.com/PRAXIS-Middle-Science-Teacher-Certification/dp/1607870592/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1297627083&sr=8-5
    It wasn’t the clearest/best written thing ever, but it was the only one I found that actually taught the various topics on the test, rather than just saying what topics were tested.

    Good luck!

    • erinkay

      Thanks for sharing your experience! I am glad that I don’t have to take that general science test- I feel like I have enough on my plate as it is.

      Thank you for the link to that study guide! I have the official one from ETS and two more I found of questionable quality on lulu.com. I might pick up this one too on your recommendation. Thanks!!

  3. J

    Hi Erinkay,

    Can you tell me how long it took TFA to grant your reassignment request? They are currently considering mine, and the wait is killing me.

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