Shake the Dust

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap

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Jan 05 2015

I’ve cried ten times

I’ve cried in my classroom nine times that I remember. Once the fifth week of school my first year when my class talked about me behind my back (and by behind my back I mean in front of my face in a circle while I sat in the middle of the room hating myself) and…

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Aug 04 2014

419 Miles South on 63

I went to college 419 miles north of my town in rural Northeastern Missouri. When the town becomes visible 100 miles after leaving the last big (ish) city you can spot a sign that greets, “Kirksville Welcomes You! Where People Make The Difference.” If you weren’t paying attention as you drove up Highway 63 you’d…

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May 07 2014

Password ‘jew’ no caps

My team teacher had never met a Jewish person until I came to teach fifth grade. As last semester wound down she remarked to me as she popped open a Diet Dr. Pepper, “I usually read Number the Stars with sixth graders but now that you’re here I feel like we just have to do…

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Apr 07 2014

Prep them to Death

Today, for the first time in 134 days of teaching, I am one hundred percent positive that I fought for what my students deserved. The story is ridiculous (it involves my obsession with getting my students a certain magical blue TI-15 calculator to use on their benchmark) but I’m on fire. It took me three…

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Mar 20 2014

Arkansas Forever

I’ve accepted it all because when things are easy you don’t make them hard. For no greater purpose or ideal, it’s easy for me to love it here. So I signed that paper, knowing nothing, accepting everything, being bound by a love I don’t question, and let a new thought roll around in my brain: Arkansas forever.

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Feb 26 2014

Seven Years to Get it Right

I work in a small rural school. My students have been sitting next to the same people since kindergarten.  They are generally very sweet to each other but on the days they can’t seem to get along I like to remind them that these are the same people they will be in school with for…

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Dear world beyond the Delta, I woke up today and found a severed deer leg in my front yard. At first I thought it was a stick but after inching a few steps closer realized it was definitely a deer leg. I laughed about it mostly because I didn’t know what else to do. A…

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Feb 02 2014

Dropping the Ball

I made a huge mistake yesterday and it all started with our peewee basketball tournament. I’ve been coaching pee wee for what feels like one billion years (okay, just 4 months) and have slowly picked up a few other roles along the way: designated inhaler holder, scorekeeper, and shuttle service to and from practices and…

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Jan 08 2014

No Lie (in the words of 2 Chainz)

It is a rare occasion that people from “the outside” observe my classroom. So when they roll around, TFA observations make me all kinds of anxious and uncomfortable. Will I hear the dreaded words “apathetic and unruly” in a debrief or suddenly feel compelled to narrate the crap out of my students? All things are…

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Dec 25 2013

I know this much to be true

Tomorrow I know that I will walk into a Waffle House I’ve never been to and eat alone in the company of other people who have nowhere to be on Christmas. I know what I’ll order. I know that I’ll feel guilty for eating there when the waitresses have families at home. I know I’ll…

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Dec 21 2013


I told myself I couldn’t go to sleep until I posted something. So now its 2:17 AM, I’ve watched three episodes of ESPN’s 30 for 30, and have nothing written. Hello Christmas break, I love you already. All I can say is that my life feels simultaneously perfect and in shambles. On the one hand,…

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Oct 09 2013

Where Men Wear Skinny Jeans

It cost me both of my personal days but I’m on an American Airlines flight 30 something thousand feet above Arkansas with a flight attendant who looks strangely like Emma Stone offering me Dr. Pepper feeling simply awesome. The chance to blog, to sit quietly not talking about school, and splurge on a spontaneous trip…

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Sep 17 2013


Most of the corps members in my town are sick. There are 11 of us all down and out with colds, the stomach flu, tonsillitis, strep, sinus infections, allergies, and plain old exhaustion. We are a falling army, the bright smiles and never quit attitudes slowly fading into crumpled teachers passing out anywhere there’s space.…

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Jun 29 2013

Tiny Itta Bena

It would be impossible to describe how history is so alive in the Delta. The cotton fields lull you into a sense of perpetual growth until you realize what King Cotton has meant here in the South. Our experiences with race and class throughout Institute have been organic and eye-opening… on the less serious end…

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Jun 10 2013

Failing Well: Volvo Edition

I’m the only Midwesterner among my Marked Tree CM colleagues. We have a few New Yorkers, like real city kids, and last night I held a crash course in car disasters. I can tell you they were all for sure missing their public transportation. It went down like this: after wrapping up our community visit…

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Arkansas, y'all.

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