Week 3 Teach For America OK Regional Summer Institute 2015

Week 3 TFA OK Summer Institute 2015

Laura Morales

collage of week 3

Being completely honest and vulnerable…

Goal for this week: NOT QUITTING

My views and reflections are my own and should be kept in this context. I only speak for myself and from my experience at TFA Oklahoma Regional Institute training in 2015.

From my experience….

There is a reason why tons of people quit TFA. It is mentally exhausting. The day starts at 6am or earlier everyday and ends around 6:30pm. You go from teaching at your school site to being in content sessions all afternoon. There is little break time between there. And, if it is break time, it is design in session work time.

After 6:30pm the schedule looks like this..

  • Dinner
  • Prep for the next day lesson
  • Turn in lesson plans to your TFA coach teacher due 6am the next morning
  • Work on other TFA surveys/requirements that need to be done.

For me, it has been extremely overwhelming. lol #truth

There is almost never time to digest all the information thrown at you in the sessions. The sessions are about running a classroom, classroom centers, management, vision on the classroom, content, staying connected to student families, etc….

The sessions are supposed to prepare you for being in the classroom. I think the sessions have been useful but have not made me prepared for teaching. I have had amazing content session TFA teachers. They know what they are doing for sure. They are also super helpful. However, learning to be an educator takes more than just effective content TFA teachers.

From a scale from 1 to 10, I would rate being class ready a 4. I never hung out with more than 3 kids at a time in my life. I never saw children during college. I majored in philosophy. I definitely stepped into an ant hill with my first classroom experiences. All I can do is laugh at myself sometimes lol

I execute (more like troubleshoot) my daily lesson plans as I go. I make things up depending on what I think would work in my classroom and on my prior life experience. Many parts of the lesson plans I am supposed to do, I skip. I have no idea how to execute them.

I know…it’s horrible but I have no clue how to teach certain material. One of the areas that I have struggled most is putting together center reading groups.

TFA staff has been supportive and helpful to my development as a teacher.

However, one of the biggest reason I have improved is because I have a phenomenal master teacher. My master teacher is an OK certified veteran teacher who has helped me become a teacher. I honestly take his feedback/suggestions seriously — more than anyone in TFA. I value his opinion the most because he is the one observing me the whole day. Also, because he has been super supportive and encouraging after REALLY BAD days. He has helped me come up with reading centers and has taught me how to deal with behavioral issues.

Not quitting because of my WHY

I did TFA to help me be a better leader. Every time I want to give up, I think about how most leaders that lead in history were not “ready.” However, they lead society to incredible places.

I am committed to the TFA because I think about all the Latino students. Someone has to be at the front lines of education for Latino students. By being part of TFA, I am part of the front lines for Latino students.

I am better at 1 on 1

I am for sure, by a loooooooong shot better at 1 on 1 student/ teacher instruction. I like to personalize lessons rather than mass produce a lesson and have multiple comprehension levels in my classroom. I wish my class was wayyyyyy smaller. #TeacherDreams

Takes one to know

Teaching to elementary students takes hard work. I have so much respect for teachers after being here at institute. I did not think it was this hard.

However, in all honesty… 

From my experience, summer institute is hard because I have students reading from a early 2nd grade level to a 5th grade level. It is exhausting to be in a classroom where all students are not in the same level of reading, spelling, and comprehension.


  • I have no idea what I am doing/ how to teach kids
  • Students are already soooo behind and it makes me a bag of emotions

Basically….. I have to use different levels of teaching for one classroom because of the gaps between their understanding. In top of teaching at different tfalevels,  I am dealing with a lot of behavior problems. It cuts into their learning time. IT IS EXHAUSTING. It feels like a slap in the face when I have to deal with behavior issues. All I am doing is trying to be part of a solution. I am doing my best to help them.

Poor Districts and Low Teacher Retention

I think, teachers at poor schools quit because playing catch up/ having 6  or more comprehension levels in the same class is miserable. It is mentally/physically/emotionally exhausting. In top of the large gaps inside classrooms, the behavior inside the classrooms of poor district schools is much different than behavior at top performing schools.

In my opinion, public education in the USA is shit because of all the gaps academically and behaviorally.

Ultimately, I think the USA education system needs a multi-layer reform. Public education is the symptom of our culture. It reflects our attitudes towards poverty and entitlement. It is a byproduct of our economic system of capitalism. To end, the mass production of education has not been successful.

June 15

First day of actually teaching content went really well for me. I felt like I went in the classroom with a positive mindset. I had a great day. Pretty intense. But the kids were kind of shy so their behavior was great!

June 16

Classroom Management

Cried like a baby with my MTLDC (basically teaching coach…#TFAlovesACRONYMS). I felt extremely frustrated with classroom management. I did not think classroom behavior was fundamental to teaching. Teaching is hard at an elementary level because students need to constantly be redirected. In my experience, it seems like I need to earn their respect before they behave.

TFA is big on tracking everything.data

From daily work grades, attendance, teacher/parent communication….(how many times our students breathe a minute JK…but really though).

It is EXTREMELY time CONSUMING. #HoursofmylifeGONE4EVERRRRRR #Tracking

June 19

Every Friday, we have community experience days.  Every corp member has different fall placements. The point is to experience,explore, and learn about your placement city.  My fall placement will be in Tulsa.

Friday for community experience, we found out our district placements. YAAY! I am working in The Tulsa Public School System (TPSS). I am glad of that because It will be close to my apartment. I am also glad because it serves the Latino community.

We did paperwork and we took pee drug test. I had to pee on cue. It was SO HARD.

Funny side story….

When I had some down time in the TPSS office, I asked the secretary some of the cool spots to visit in Tulsa. If you know me, you know that I am not scared to talk to strangers. So…..

I literally walked up to her and said this:

So tell me…what are the real hangouts in Tulsa. NOTHING IS OFF LIMITS. ( I threw in a wink at the end when I said that). lol C’mon, I am 22!!!!

She gave me a very interested list on the events/cool spots in Tulsa. Obviously, they are way outside the scope of what is “appropriate”  to write about in this blog. But let’s just say Tulsa is liberal. I dig that.

As a young person, it is good to know that there are cool spots besides museums/educational content in Tulsa…just saying. #YoungWildandFree

TFA does a wonderful job about connecting us with community partners.  

All the community days are really well planned.

Early Childhood Education

Today, we also toured Educare Tulsa. It is an early childhood education center. It was AMAZING! I never knew learning could be so engaging and interactive. We had a tour of the school and engaging conversations on why early childhood education (ECE) is important.

The school was beautiful inside out. The philosophy of Educare is that students,parents, and teachers are all collaborators. Parents have to be involved with the school. Otherwise, their child gets removed from the center. They have lots of fun activities to get parents involved. There was yoga incorporated into the classroom management/ behavior plans. #IdigIt


When I took a tour of a classroom, all the students were engaged and the teachers were amazing facilitators of learning. The students of Educare Tulsa are receiving a quality education, no doubt.

Why is ECE important…

Basically, ECE is important because children are not ready before kindergarten. The educational gap starts when students do not have ECE. In the long run, the lack of ECE in the USA is what is causing millions of dollars wasted on remediation classes. Most states do not have ECE because of budgets.

According to one study we read during a TFA lead session….

On average, ECE costs 3k per child a year. However, since most states are skipping ECE, in the long term, they are spending MILLIONS of DOLLARS  on remediation classes and losing BILLIONS of DOLLARS on student future income. It is a HUGEEEEE LOSSSS.

ECE is important because education starts the day a child is born.

June 20

carDid not wake up thinking I would buy a car. I ended up listening to my mom on my car choice. (Laura Sr. is always right — Mom, I know you are reading this ;))

I was able to buy a new car because TFA was VERY generous with the transitional money they gave me to relocate. #ThanksTFA #blessed #thankful

June 21

Checked out a really cool vegetarian restaurant :



#SurvivedWeek3 #thankful #hatsofftoteachers #Ichooseoklahoma #TeachForAmerica


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