Pop Links 9.30.14: ATL Cheating Scandal Trial; Afro-American Girls’ School Troubles; Free Microsoft Office for Students


  • Yesterday began the trial for Atlanta school administrators accused of changing student answers on standardized tests. NPR analyzes how high stakes No Child Left Behind testing may have instigated administrators’ alleged deceitful behavior.
  • When Obama started his “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative to help young men of color, many critics asked, “what about the girls?” A recently released report about the disproportionate struggles African American girls face in school seems to validate the criticism.
  • Your students (and soon, you) may qualify to receive Microsoft Office software for free! Find out more about the initiative and whether your students fit the criteria here.
  • TFANet Resource: Figurative Language
By |September 30th, 2014|Pop Links|0 Comments|

Back to the Middle School Cafeteria


 (Photo Credit: Nomadic Lass)

I haven’t yet mastered the art of assembling myself nutritious lunches before I go to bed each night, which means I usually end up with a hastily made sandwich and whichever fruit I was able to locate first. About half the time, the sandwich is peanut butter and jelly, because I can always find those in the fridge.

That’s what I was holding when I walked back into the middle school cafeteria for the first time since my own eighth grade graduation. Eating lunch with my kids at least once a week was a goal I made when I first visited the school—I decided that it was one of the ways I would build relationships and get to know my students. But standing in the doorway of the cafeteria as sixth graders streamed around me to get their pizza and chicken nuggets, I started to have doubts. I had my own cafeteria traumas as a kid (I’m pretty sure I was in sixth grade when my best friends told me to eat at another table because I talked with my mouth full.) Besides, what middle school student wanted to have lunch with their English teacher?

I shouldn’t have worried. I’ve had lunch in the cafeteria four times now, each time with a somewhat different mix of students. Once I accidentally sat at the “tardy table” where students are supposed to sit as punishment for showing up late, and the lunch monitors had to explain to me that as a teacher, I could dismiss kids from the table, but I think I’ve got it figured out now. I’ve chatted about mariachi band, favorite desserts, and squids.

Today the instructor of my certification program visited the classroom while I tried to explain the rationale for studying Greek and Latin word roots in English class. When I asked why we were spending time on this, kids seemed convinced that I wanted them to communicate with native Latin speakers. Afterwards my instructor explained that the kids weren’t grasping my rationale. The reason they worked so hard on the lessons is because they know that I’m on their team, and if I think it’s a good idea, they’ll give it a try.

I know I’ve got to work on my rationale, but for now I’m so grateful for what I’ve got: the grace and patience of my students. I’m far from perfect, a lesson I re-learn every day in the classroom. But as long as they’re willing to try, as long as we’re on this wild adventure together, I believe we’ll all make it through stronger. All it takes is stepping into the middle school cafeteria and taking the time to make those relationships.

By |September 30th, 2014|Corps Stories|0 Comments|

Motivation Monday: Service


By |September 29th, 2014|General|0 Comments|

Pop Links 9.25.14: Wendy Kopp Talks Criticisms of TFA; National Geographic Bee Competition; Motivational Speech by High School Athlete; Teacher Halloween Costumes

  • Teach For America founder Wendy Kopp responded to some of the most common criticisms of  Teach For America using data to explain why she believes that most of the criticism towards the organization is misplaced.
  • Nurture future global leaders in your classroom! Enter your students in the annual National Geographic Bee Competition, a contest open to students in fourth to eighth grade.
  • Moments after he helped his team rally from behind to clinch a big win, a high school student put his other talents on display in a video that is making rounds on the internet. See why many are saying the student athlete would shine as a motivational speaker.
  • Everyone’s favorite holiday is around the corner! How will you dress to impress your students? BuzzFeed has ideas for fun Halloween teacher costumes!
  • TFANet Resource: Poetry
By |September 25th, 2014|Pop Links|0 Comments|

Banned Poems: 10 Students Write About Alcohol, Homosexuality, And Other Banned Topics




our lives begin to end

Note: The content in this post addresses violence, suicide, and rape.

It’s Banned Books Week! Together with the American Library Association, we are supporting the freedom for our students to seek and express truths in the classroom and beyond, even if those ideas are considered controversial.

According to the American Library Association’s stats on banned books, literature is often challenged when it deals with themes like drugs, alcohol, gambling, gangs, violence, suicide, homosexuality, or contains offensive language, political viewpoints, religious viewpoints, or content that is sexually explicit.

challenges by reasons 1990-99 and 2000-09_0


However, in “The Students’ Right to Read,” the National Council of Teacher of English stresses that these topics reflect the reality of our society, and worry that censorship distorts students’ exploration of truths and by its nature counters the essence of education, “Censorship leaves students with an inadequate and distorted picture of the ideals, values, and problems of their culture.”

Today, we’re amplifying our students who have dared to write autobiographically about topics that many have tried to keep out of classrooms. These students have published poems in order to teach others about the truths of their lives through the Poet Warriors Project, and while many of these poems deal with heavy topics, we celebrate the teachers who have not banned our students’ stories from their classrooms.

“I’m just telling you like it is,
And if you mad?
I don’t give a damn.”
Excerpt from “Real” by Jermyron Rice


1)     Profanity
“I had to stop crying,
so he won’t hear me.
His eyes were red as a wild hog.
I could smell the beer off him.
He yelled to his wife,
‘Where the hell is that girl.’”
Excerpt from “The Rumble” by T.M.

2)      Alcohol
I heard glass shattering
And saw mother cleaning
As he chuckled and laughed as if he were king”
Excerpt from “A Late Night with Alcohol” by Anonymous

3)      Gangs
On the streets of MLK
You can hear the screams of horror
Along with gunshots
Blood covering the ground
His mama laying down next to his bleeding body
Pouring her eyes out asking ‘Why?’”
Excerpt from “Memphis” by Morgan Williams

4)      Violence

I See Red

I see a mother carrying her 10 year old son.
I see a hole through his head.
I see rain, red rain, coming down his face.
I see darkness. I see red.
Excerpt from “I See Red” by Deion Edison

5)      Gambling
“When my auntie awakes
She runs to the casino
With Jacksons in her pockets
With no worries of tomorrow.”
Excerpt from “The Gambler” by Rishawnda Begay

6)      Homosexuality
“I know that some of you may find is strange or disgusting for
Me to choose to be this way
This was not my choice
Just as you did not choose to be straight
I did not choose to be gay
And even if I could, I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Excerpt from “Breaking the Silence” by Emery Vela

7)      Suicide
“Her blood is dark red like red wine.
The blade and razor she just used are on her side.
She can still hear her parents screaming and fighting.
She can still remember the hatred in the words her classmates said to her.”
Excerpt from “BLOOD” by America Ambriz

8)      Rape
“They think it’s easy
But those Ten Seconds
Showed the true fights we black women go through”
Excerpt from “Ten Seconds,” by Taylor Hayes

9)      Religion
“If I can see my family so does god.
If I can touch the rose in my house so
does god.”
Excerpt from “Michoacan,” by Evaristo Granados

10)   “Unsuitable” for kids
“Come take a look
behind the curtain
peer under the surface
to see things that are dark for certain
Beneath the coat of smiles and jokes
Is a dark abyss with the humanity being choked
Yes, I tend to do things sometimes
That seem like I’m not correct in the mind
It’s because I’m so lost and confused
Sanity is so hard to find.”
Excerpt from “Sanity is so Hard to Find,” by Levontaye Ellington

New School Year, New Health and Wellness Posts

63/365: They're back

(Photo Credit: Kaytee Riek)

Being a new teacher is tough. Trust me, I’ve been there. So my colleague Chris Bronson and I are happy to start writing metal health and wellness posts again on TeacherPop this year.

I am Janna, and I was a Delta ’07 corps member. After my time in the corps, I joined the doctoral counseling program at The University of Texas at Austin. My career plan is to become a therapist and to participate in various endeavors related to improving the mental health needs of our society. My collaborator, Chris, is a ’93 LA CM. Chris is a licensed psychologist, the director of The University of Texas Counseling Center, and the National Mental Health Consultant for TFA. Chris and I are both grateful to have the opportunity to take our knowledge of mental health and apply it to the TFA corps experience.

Our goal is to you give information that will help you tune into your wellness needs. As corps members, you spend a lot of time working for others—your students, your colleagues, your communities. But we’ll often challenge you to spend some time taking care of yourself—taking time for self-care, listening to signals your body may be sending, taking steps to get help if needed, etc.

We have a lot of fun brainstorming ideas for posts, however, we are also very interested in learning about what you may wish to hear about. If there are certain topics you would like us to write about, or if you have specific questions related to mental health and wellness, please send these our way. We will do our best to devote a post to your request. You can submit requests by emailing me directly (jannavmiller@gmail.com). If you would like your request to be anonymous, just say so, and we will be sure to honor your wishes.

So be on the lookout for our posts each week. We are very excited to be back!

Six Tips To Stay True To You

6897009859_893b4a9204_o(Photo Credit: Dee Bamford)

As I start my third year of teaching, I find myself reflecting on the lessons I’ve learned. The best advice I’ve received is to: “stay true to you despite the challenges.” I know how easy it is to fall prey to fitting a mold set by those who came before. You are met with strict deadlines, the pressure of grad courses, school wide expectations, and, most importantly, a class of students who depend on you. It can be easy to lose the unique flare and creativity that brought you into the profession. Here are some tips to avoid falling into the trap:

  1. Bring the warmth of home to the classroom. Find small places in your room to incorporate pieces of home – pictures, plants, furniture, pillows, etc. The more comfortable you feel, the more you will want to be there.
  2. Be genuine with your students. Don’t hide it! We spend a lot of time trying to connect with students. Share who you are with them. Students love to hear your personal stories, so fit them into the day. These snippets of personality will bring a sense of reciprocal trust and love to your classroom community.
  3. Add flare to the “non-negotiables.”  Many schools have school-wide norms. Find the wiggle room to add your personal touch. This could be something as simple as adding some art to your behavior chart, a fun attention getter with your kids, or a specific incentive unique to your classroom.
  4. Find something you love outside work. Don’t forget to be a human being! This may be challenging at first, but try your best to step outside teaching at least once a week. For me, this was writing and photography. For others it may be a community sports league, cooking, movies, or reading a non-academic book before bed. Make it a non-negotiable.
  5. Find a BFAW (Best Friend at Work)! Don’t spend every lunch break on your computer or prepping for next period – find time to bond! These little moments have kept me sane during the days when no one else understands.
  6. Don’t forget where you came from. We all have families and friends who are the foundation of our support network. Try your best to stay in touch and share your experience with these people. It takes time and effort, but phone calls, Skype dates, and weekend visits will mean the world when the going gets tough!

The more you teach, the more opportunities you’ll find to stay true to your personality. Seek out those moments, rather than dwelling on what you “can and cannot do.” Bringing back the flare will help make you a happier and healthier teacher for your kids!

By |September 23rd, 2014|Corps Stories|1 Comment|

Pop Links 9.23.14: From NFL to Teaching; Language Learning; Global Education; Low Income Students College Struggle

  • On the field and under the bright lights on network television cameras, Ricardo Silva showcased his talents as an NFL player. Now, he spends his days training young minds as a TFA corps member. Find out what inspired the transition.
  • Looking for resources to help your students practice foreign language skills? Introduce students to the free language learning site, Duolingo.
  • Pop Quiz: How much do you know about global education? Take the short MSNBC quiz to test your knowledge about the state of education around the world.
  • A teacher grapples with the sad reality even when her students gain college acceptances, many of her students from low income households face unique challenges which sidetrack their paths to graduation.
  • TFANet Resource: Author’s purpose
By |September 23rd, 2014|General|0 Comments|