About Emily Garvey

Emily Garvey teaches 8th grade history at KIPP Houston.

Next Level Teacher Organization: The Power of the Notebook

Next Level Teacher Organization: The Power of the Notebook

When my assistant principal suggested that I sign up for a teacher organization professional development, I was offended. I always turn in my lesson plans on time, I never miss meetings, and unread emails don’t stack up in my inbox. I’m already ahead of the curve, aren’t I?

But then again, I also couldn’t find the old email that explained the training. And when I showed my assistant principal the half sheet of paper that acted as my planner for the week, she laughed at me. (I don’t even have an example of this; it would always go in the trash at the end of each week.)

Why I’m Staying in the Classroom

14396077993_9269de7b29_bAccording to recent studies, nearly 40% of new teachers leave the classroom after three years. I’m not surprised by that number because that was my path.

I was teaching two subjects to two middle school grade levels, and putting in 60+ hour work weeks in a portable classroom with a leaky air conditioner. Parents yelled at me for giving their children homework, administrators denied my plans to bring in guest speakers, and a student kicked a hole in my wall. I was 24 years old, and after three years of anxiety in the trenches, I wasn’t sure I could do it forever.

Fear Is A Lie



“For this year, I fear nothing, fear is a lie.”

I get this from one of my eighth graders on the first day of school while they are doing an activity that requires them to write down their hopes and fears.

I wasn’t exactly scared about coming back home and starting this new school year—I wasn’t even as nervous as I thought I should be as I set up my classroom and finally greeted my students for the first time—but fear still stops me in my tracks. In all its forms—anxiety, terror, worry, panic—fear stayed with me through most of my three years teaching, and ultimately, drove me to take my hiatus from the classroom.

By |August 27th, 2014|Your Stories|2 Comments|

Back To Being Ms. Garvey


(Photo credit: Vero Villa)

Just about this time last year, I was hiking over the Pyrenees, starting a 500-mile walking pilgrimage across Spain. Eight months ago I was dancing on the beaches of Thailand with thousands of strangers under the full moon. Five months ago I was taking shots of snake blood and motorbiking down the coast of Vietnam a la Top Gear. Three months ago I was watching the sunrise from a hot air balloon over the fairy-chimney-shaped rocks of Turkey.

No job, no responsibilities, no deadlines.

By |August 20th, 2014|Your Stories|0 Comments|

Welcome Corps Members! #2

Howdy, y’all!

(I’m kidding. A Texas placement DOES NOT mean that you’ll end up sounding like that … though I do own a pretty sweet pair of cowboy boots.)

My name is Emily and I was a 2010 Houston corps member, originally from Connecticut. As a two-year Institute veteran (once as a corps member, once as a Resource Room Specialist), the best piece of advice I can give you as you embark on your TFA adventure: stay flexible. I like to think of it as trusting “TFA Fate” that whatever surprises teaching might throw at you, everything will work out the way it’s supposed to. (Really.)

By |June 7th, 2013|Your Stories|2 Comments|

The Hardest Thing About Institute


(Photo: juditk, flickr)

For me, the hardest part of Institute—harder than packing up and moving to a brand new city, harder than learning new kids and new content, harder than the long days and late nights—was the feedback.

Let’s just say I’m not the most graceful at accepting criticism.

It’s not like I thought I’d get to Institute and immediately know exactly what I was doing in the classroom … I guess I just didn’t think I’d get to Institute and immediately feel so bad at it.

In retrospect, I was not a terrible teacher. But, like probably every single incoming corps member, “not terrible” was not exactly what I was going for. Transformational … that’s what I wanted, and I wanted it fast. One Day? Psh. Let’s do this TODAY.

Why Every Teacher Should Embrace the Read Aloud

Galveston's Summer of the Storm

A sample “book report” that my students completed after our read-aloud.

An unprompted exchange between two of my students last week:

“I would rate the book 6.2 stars.”

“Dude, it’s out of five!”

“I know.”

One of the key lessons that stuck with me from my Institute experience three years ago: Every teacher is a literacy teacher.

It doesn’t take much time in the classroom to see how true this really is. The biggest issue my students have with the social studies standardized test is not content, but vocabulary. So setting aside all test prep and curriculum guides, I embarked on the journey of an ELA teacher this past month … and read a novel with my kids. Out loud. During class.

Whatever your content area, whatever your grade level, and whatever your class materials, this is something I’d definitely recommend for every classroom.

Here’s why:

Fighting Guilt to Take a Time-Out from Teaching

empty classroom #1 - Quincy College

(Photo credit: jenlight)

On the last day of Saturday tutorials, my absolute favorite seventh grade student stopped me in the hallway to give me the biggest hug.

“I’m going to have Ms. Garvey again next year for eighth grade,” she stated confidently, and my heart broke into a million pieces.

Yes, she was supposed to be in my class again next year… if I hadn’t already turned in my Early Notification Letter and told my principal that instead of closing the Gap next year, I will be solo backpacking around the world.

Yes, seriously.

I feel overwhelmingly selfish. I am leaving my kids for a cliche of a reason. And really: I am a teacher for low-income students–how much more meaning can I possibly need to be satisfied? But as my third year in the classroom comes to a close, I still feel as though there is something missing. And so, I am setting off into the world to see what I can find.

Here’s the thing: I think I might want to be a teacher forever. Maybe. On good days. And sometimes, actually, even on bad days. In all seriousness, I love my job. And more than anything, I don’t want to be a statistic—yet another TFA corps member quitting the classroom after only a few years—leaving was never in “The Plan” for me.

In The Art of Non-Conformity, Chris Guillebeau writes, “The time to leave the best job in the world is right before you get tired of it.” And after approximately 10,000 hours of working over the course of my three years, I’m teetering on the edge of exhaustion.

Luckily, those 10,000 hours never left me with much time for expensive dinners, fancy drinks out, or even shopping. Slowly, my painful first years of teaching transformed into a sizable savings account. And then I read The Alchemist. And devoured this documentary about backpacking. And watched this TED Talk about the sabbatical. And I was sold.

So before I turn 26-years-old and commit myself to a career as “Ms. Garvey,” I’ve decided to give myself one last year as “Emily.”