Sunday, April 15

Letter of Intent

The following is my letter of intent written to Teach for America:

During my year as a Fulbright Teaching Assistant in Germany I learned that a country’s education system is not only closely intertwined with its culture, but also a reflection of its values.

I was placed in two high schools in an affluent suburb of Munich, one of the wealthiest cities in Germany. Later in the year I had the opportunity to visit a school in a small and economically struggling East German town. After a day of visiting classes there, it was clear that they had access to the same technology, their buildings were equally as up-to-date, and their teachers were equally as qualified as at my schools. The German education system is far from perfect; they struggle with many of the same issues we do in America, including integrating their growing immigrant population. But I saw that German children, regardless of their geographical location, had access to the same educational resources and were expected to meet the same academic standards.* Germans recognize that this equality is necessary in order to move toward a better and more unified nation. This experience made me wonder; what would an outsider think of American values if they were to visit a public school in a poor rural town or inner city? I hardly think that the American public school system portrays the values of freedom, equality, and inclusiveness we pride ourselves on.

I want to join Teach for America because I want our schools to be proof that we are a nation that values all our children, not just a privileged few, and recognizes that they will all play a part in the future of our country. I want to be one of many Americans to reach out and tell those children who have been ignored that they are important to us, to America, and to the world. I believe that I can begin to accomplish that in my two years as a corps member by setting high expectations for the kids in my classroom and working hard to provide them with the support and knowledge they need to reach those expectations.

Teaching abroad and returning to work for an education association has taught me a great deal about myself and my strengths and interests. I am passionate about education and plan to pursue a higher degree in a related field, but before I continue my studies I want to see first hand the impact that I can have on one school and one group of students. My experience in a classroom will make me more aware the issues that require the most attention and that I will be most able to impact in my future. German school children taught me more about German culture than I could have imagined and I believe that American school children will inspire and motivate me to take an active role in shaping the future values of America.

*Obviously this is an oversimplified comparison, a 250 word essay does not allow space for a discussion of the complex pros and cons of the German school system (This article discussed some of the major problems they are facing especially with immigrants.). My comparison is based only on the Gymnasiums (highest track college preparatory public high schools) that I saw in Munich and Greifswald. Money is spread equally among schools within each German state. Teachers are likewise assigned placements by the state. This means that there is very little disparity between same-track schools in different areas of Germany. Of course this equality cannot make up for the discrimination that exists in the tracking process , I discussed this issue in this post. (In that previous post I wrote that placement was determined based on grades and tests, I learned that that is is not entirely true, the ultimate decision on tracking is made by the parents with recommendations by teachers.)

Friday, April 6

Announcement: Next Big Adventure!

At some point in the last months the adventures of me turned into something not so adventurous and more sedintary and my brain became filled with less witty observations and insightful commentaries and more whining about how boring it is to sit in a cubicle and push paper all day. And thus the blogging tapered off into nothingness. This development, among other factors, was an indication to me that my life was due for a new twist. Luckily for you I am not the type sit around and wait for things to happen. SO- In January I submitted the online portion of the Teach for America application... Three months and a few interviews later I've accepted a position as a Secondary English Teacher in South Dakota on the Pine Ridge or Rosebud Indian Reservation beginning fall 2007. :-D

A few other fun things happened in those months, a successful Holiday House Party on T Street, Christmas at home, a fun trip to Boston and a buisness trip to Kalamazoo (Yes! There really is a Kalamazoo), many more nights out in Georgetown, a visit to my Senators' offices on Capitol Hill, and more recently finally getting around to some DC touristy things (See pictures in Flickr account over there --->). But the long and short of it is that even though I work for a great organization, really like my coworkers, and fully believe in our mission and values, big city 9-5 office life just is just not my thing, at least not right now. I may one day return to work in an office for an organization I care about, but hopefully it won't be until I'm actually high up enough to have an office-- cubicles are just not good for anyone.

In the mean time-- Westward Ho!! I'm ready for some Wide Open Spaces :)

The time line looks something like this:
April- mid May:
Continue plugging along in my cubicle
Take Praxis II teachers test
Read massive quantities of TfA pre-reading
Find someone to take my room, my job, and my bike
Pack all material possessions into my car
May 24th-ish: Drive to Minneapolis
May 26-June 1: NAFSA 2007 Annual Conference and Expo in Minneapolis MN - We need temps if you're interested!
June 3 - June 8: Drive to South Dakota for induction
June 8-10 ish: Drive to Houston
June 10- July 14: TfA Institute in Houston
July 14- Early August: Hang out at the lake in MN
Mid August: Move to South Dakota
Late August: Be a real teacher!

Further updates and reflections are coming soon. Renewed blogging activity is obviously a must, but right now I should be working! Ciao