Making the Desert Bloom

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap

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As readers of my blog know, I have been thinking a lot of happiness recently. With the excuse of wanting to spend at least part of a Barnes and Noble gift card on myself (What does it say that my initial instincts are to spend it all on my students?), I bought Eric Weiner’s book…

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It’s no secret that most first-year teachers (especially TFA Corps Members) are not happy during much of their first year teaching. Facing an incredibly challenging job without all of the skills to succeed is difficult for anyone no matter how much support you have. I am not making this statement to indict anyone, but rather…

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Dec 10 2012

Making the Comeback

One of my favorite parts of my job is showing my students that I am human who cares about them rather than just being a mean teacher re-directing their behavior and leading a boring classroom. I have a few ways of completing this task. One way is that I allow any students who want to…

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Nov 22 2012


Like most teachers, I wanted to impart many (but not all) of the values of Thanksgiving onto my students. As a result, this past week’s writing prompt (to help them prepare for the 5th grade writing exam) focused on what they are thankful for. I wanted to share both my model essay that I shared…

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Nov 12 2012

Is it My Classroom or Our Classroom?

One of the biggest internal struggles I have been having as a teacher is related to the sense of ownership in the classroom along with the sense of leadership and responsibility for my students. My school makes it very clear that each classroom is the teacher’s classroom and the students should feel as though they…

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Today is Nevada Day (Observed), and as a result, I had my first real school day off since Labor Day (I am not counting Rosh HaShannah or Yom Kippur since I was in services). Instead of spending another morning and afternoon of prep or taking a trip out of town (like I had originally planned),…

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Note: Since I have fallen behind on blog posts, I am writing a series of rambling mini-updates here. I hope you find them somewhat illuminating.  Once of the cliches that I used when talking about teaching before I started teaching was that I was far more scared for Day 34 than I was for Day…

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Oct 01 2012

The Bureaucracy of the Job

The last two weeks have been insanely busy even by my standards. Even when I am not working, I am always thinking about teaching my kids, and everything I have to do get ready for them. However, I find that I spend so much of my time doing things that are indirectly related to my…

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Sep 16 2012

Is it too late to take control?

I had a terrible week in class behavior management, and it’s my fault. Throughout the first few weeks, I had not be able to get the class quiet enough, but this week was far worse. With the exception of formal assessment times, the class was so loud and disruptive that we didn’t get through all…

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Sep 10 2012

Working in a Low-Trust Environment

I have been fortunate throughout most of my life to live and work in high-trust environments. I went to a high school where everyone routinely left their backpacks outside of their lockers and hardly anything happened to the backpacks. At college, I once left a window fan in the campus center for 11 days and…

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Sep 02 2012

Living in Las Vegas

While this blog is mostly focused on what happens in my classroom, I also happen to live in one the strangest cities in the world. Living in a city like Las Vegas has weird effects on my classroom and my life that I believe are worth sharing. (By the way, I happen to writing today…

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Aug 26 2012

Teaching Politics to 5th Graders

Anyone who knows me is well aware of the fact that I am a very political person. I can almost inject politics into almost every situation, which can often be problematic. As a result, I was very excited to be able to talk the current election in the reading and social studies parts of my…

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Aug 22 2012

Crazy Start

I think the first two days of schools are crazy for any new teacher. You never know what is going to happen, and you can be surprised by absolutely nothing. Also, you cannot let any of your students know that it is your first time teaching for a full year since they will pounce on…

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As a 22 year old first year teacher, it is often difficult to remember my place in society and in the classroom. On the one hand, I am just a guy right out of college. According to our societal expectations, most of us are supposed to be unemployed in this economy. I guess I am…

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Aug 09 2012

The Importance of Why

Earlier tonight, my school hosted it’s elementary orientation. I knew it was going to be an opportunity for me to meet some of my students and their families. After hearing stories from the kindergarten orientation where on average 80% of the parents showed up, I was expecting most of my parents to show up. I…

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Aug 02 2012

Focusing on my Classroom

Institute allows a lot of time for reflection. Now that I am done with Institute, I find myself continuing on this reflection about this past summer. I never realized how all encompassing my classroom would become so quickly. Despite the fact that I was only teaching 9 students for on average 45 minutes per day,…

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I am pretty sure it’s normal to have a love-hate relationship with Institute, but I am going to lay out my thoughts here for the record. In true TFA fashion, there will be a survey coming tomorrow, and I am sure there will be some copying and pasting going on here as I don’t want…

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Jul 16 2012

Online vs. Reality

For the past four years of my life, including running a State Representative campaign, my life has been based primarily on two types of communication, in-person and through e-mail. In a typical day, I would go through 50 or so “important” e-mails followed up by a series of in-person meetings. In many professional jobs, what…

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After three weeks at the LA Institute, I have learned more about teaching than I thought was possible in this amount of time. I had to admit that I was leery (and still am leery) that I would be prepared to be a teacher in five, short weeks, but I am amazed at how much…

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Jul 08 2012

A Balanced Path to Success?

I try to live most of my life on a very balanced path somewhat along the lines of al-Razi. This Medieval philosopher based in Baghdad focused on living a life in between the excesses of hedonism and the solitude of the monastery life. While my upper and lower limits may be defined a bit differently,…

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Jul 06 2012

Spoiled in LA

Yesterday, I found out that one of my fellow LVV corps members is updating his blog everyday. Since I am a super competitive person, I am briefly going to try to do the same by writing two posts in two days. The reason I am able to write these posts is because I spent most…

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Jul 04 2012

The Insane Kids keep me Sane

I know it’s been over a week since I last wrote a post, but it took working 5 hours already on the 4th of July to be in a position where I could actually afford the time to write a post. That’s the story of Institute. There is simply so much work to do that…

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Jun 26 2012

Enjoyed Day 1

After everyone had built up Institute to be the hardest five weeks of my life, I expected the “torture” to start from the first second. But that hasn’t been the case so far. Moving in yesterday was a breeze. It only took a few minutes to check at Loyola Marymount University, and getting settled in…

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For most regions in TFA, induction seems to be a pretty standard affair. You stay at a local university where you learn a bunch about TFA, and you get to interact a bit with the local community. In essence, that is what induction in the Las Vegas Valley is like, but the differences are worth…

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Jun 05 2012

Blazing a New Path

Whenever I tell most people that I am moving to Las Vegas after graduation, they laugh. After growing up in the Midwest and going to school on the East Coast, the common conception is that Las Vegas is just a desert oasis that’s little more than the Strip. A few more slightly more informed people…

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