4 Poems for Addressing Identity


April is National Poetry Month, and TeacherPop is celebrating every Friday by featuring four poetry selections from teachers who have participated in Teach For America’s Poet Warriors Project. Interested in getting your class involved? Email for details!

1. “Biracial Hair,” by Zora Howard

This is the first poem I teach in the Poet Warriors unit developed by TFA alum Emily Southerton. Listening to Howard perform this poem is powerful and the message is accessible, relevant, and thought-provoking. Howard began writing poetry at age 13, became a well-known poet, and attended Yale University. Her story teaches students that they can become successful leaders and change-makers through writing.

Students’ favorite line:

“I’m not a f*cking cookie.”

Tracking My Time #2: This Time, a Positive Reminder

clock-150x150Back to my self-experiment. You read about my big confession here. But I won’t be too hard on myself because I also noticed I’ve still done a decent job of managing both my energy and cognitive bandwidth.

Positive Reminder: Here’s what worked for me: I tried to do the hard work in the morning when I had the most energy and when I was not cyberloafing. Then, at night on my train rides back to DC (when I’ve noticed I get energy from speaking with other people), I scheduled phone calls with people who wanted my advice. I also remembered in advance that I’m useless after delivering workshops, and I had two last week. So, after my teacher trainings, I literally just opened a book and read for 30 minutes. So much better than scrambling to answer email on my smartphone in a taxi racing to my next location!

Instagram Photo of the Day 4.18.14

brandonmblount: This corps tho!!! In a month we'll all go our separate ways, but we'll always have Tulsa, the golden driller, shark bar, snow days, and AMERICA! #tfa #tfakc #teachforamerica #kansas city #tiesonheads #america #friends #closethegap

brandonmblount: This corps tho!!! In a month we’ll all go our separate ways, but we’ll always have Tulsa, the golden driller, shark bar, snow days, and AMERICA! #tfa #tfakc #teachforamerica #kansas city #tiesonheads #america #friends #closethegap


The Potential of Failure

(Photo credit: StockMonkeys.com)

(Photo credit: StockMonkeys.com)

This was it. I stood, sweaty and exhausted, as my band director walked over to the group of potential drum major candidates standing at the center of the field. Six of us had just endured a grueling tryout for the past hour and a half, but only one would be selected to be drum major for the 2009 marching band season. Having held the position the previous year, I felt I had a leg up, but the competition was stiff and I knew I couldn’t expect anything. Thirty seconds later I was told that I would not be retaining my position as drum major, and that someone else would take on the role for the upcoming year.

Like it or not, we will all fail in our lives. I failed in my quest to become drum major. I’ve failed tests, job interviews, auditions, and, as a teacher, I fail more times a day than I care to admit. But I’m also a firm believer that failure can and should be viewed as an opportunity rather than a road block. When we fail, we have the opportunity to pick ourselves up and learn how to move past it.

Given my belief in the power of failure, however, I’m often disturbed by the current trend that refuses to allow students to fail and thereby deprives them of the important opportunity to learn how to fail successfully while they are still young. The pressure to refuse to allow students to fail comes from all sides—from school districts, administrators, parents, and even students themselves. Districts set artificial grade floors so that students cannot fall below a certain point. Parents turn on teachers if their child receives a low grade on the report card. Under fire from the districts, administrators pressure teachers to give extra credit and makeup work or, at worst, to change grades themselves. There’s even a movement now to opt out of testing across the country, and a part of their rational is because too many students will fail. And through all this we send our kids the last message we should be sending them: that you can’t and shouldn’t fail.

By |April 17th, 2014|Perspectives|0 Comments|

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Extra Help: How to Find a Mental Health Professional

(Photo credit: Sara V.)

(Photo credit: Sara V.)

Making the decision to see a mental health professional can be difficult. Sometimes people are unsure whether they are truly in need of help; other times, the stigma attached with seeking help can make people fear that they might be “crazy” or that others will look down on them. The truth is that seeing a professional can dramatically improve your quality of life, because there are times when all of us could use some extra help in order to feel like ourselves again.

Finding the right counselor for you can be a tricky process, so here are some helpful points to remember during your search:

  • There are many different types of mental health professionals, so finding one can be confusing. They are, in short: 1) psychiatrists—medical doctors (MD) who primarily prescribe medication for treatment.  Some, but not most, also engage in talk therapy; 2) psychologists—usually a doctoral-level provider (PhD) who provides counseling, psychotherapy, and assessment, but typically does not prescribe medication (this does vary state-to-state, however); 3) licensed clinical social worker (LCSW), licensed professional counselors (LPC), and licensed marriage and family therapists (LMFT), all of whom have a master’s degree in their respective area and provide counseling and psychotherapy; and 4) primary care providers, who, while not actually a mental health provider, often prescribe psychiatric medications.

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4 Things Teachers Can Do to Improve Their School’s Culture


Schools are most successful when everyone is on the same page, moving toward a common goal and motivated by a compelling vision, but sometimes goals get fractured and the vision gets blurry. It’s in those moments when you, as an individual, have the opportunity to make the greatest impact. Here are four ways to make it a positive one.

#1: Make room for social and emotional learning. 

In a positive school culture there is an expectation of social and emotional safety, which is something that you, as a teacher, can create from the ground up, starting with your classroom, your colleagues, and yourself.

Here are a few suggestions to promote the kind of positivity that keeps people not just comfortable in their school environment, but also enthusiastic and engaged: