Suriving and Thriving in Chicago

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Feb 07 2014

Where I introduce myself

Hey there!

Welcome to my lovely Teach for America blog.  It is here that I will chronicle my time teaching in Chicago as a Teach for America teacher.  I have been assigned to teach Special Education so I am excited to get started and get back in the classroom.

So I guess I should start this blog by giving you a little bit of my background and who I am.  My name is Ben and I hail from the great state of buckeyes and ever-changing weather, Ohio!  I graduated from college in 2012 with a degree and teaching license in secondary social studies.  After I finished college up, I somehow convinced the U.S. State Department to give me money to live and teach abroad for a year through the Fulbright Program.  After a year of living that adventure (which you can read about at if you’re interested in seeing what that was like!), I went down to work at a boarding school in the South where I worked in residence/student life.  After deciding that I realllly want to return to the classroom and want to teach and live in an urban setting again (I did my student teaching in an inner-city, high needs high school), I decided to take my chances and apply for Teach for America.  I found I was accepted this past January and shortly afterwards accepted my offer of admission and here I am as a 2014 Corps member!

I initially wasn’t sure about TFA for a while and I admit that I have analyzed it with a critical eye it in the past.  However, I do think that good of the program does outweigh the negatives and I think it is a good fit for a person like me, someone with a passion and background in education.  I am going to be using this blog as a way to record my teaching experiences in Chicago.  I know that realistically I am going to be ridiculously busy this upcoming two years and there’s a good chance that I may not update this very often, but I am going to try my darndest to be a faithful blogger.

Last thing I want to do really quick is explain the title of the blog.  I spent a very contemplative twenty minutes struggling to think of an apt title for this blog, even researching the titles of the many other blogs that are featured on the Teach for Us site.  I eventually settled on Surviving and Thriving in Chicago.  I know that these next two years will be a struggle and I will feel at times that I am literally just trying to survive and get through to the next day.  I have taught in a high needs school before and I know how challenging and frustrating it can be.  But I also know that it can be a rewarding experience.  It is a place where you can truly make a difference in a person’s life and help the students find that path of success and thrive in a setting that is very challenging for many of them.  I am anticipating that there is going to be a lot more thriving than surviving but I suppose only time will tell.

Alright I guess that’s it.  There isn’t a tremendous amount to update you about since I haven’t taught yet.  In fact, I’ve never even been to Chicago!  But I’m going in like three weeks!  I’m stoked!  It’ll be for this job fair where hopefully a school will think I’m a pretty fantastic guy and have potential to be a great teacher and will hire me!  We’ll see.  If not then, than I will for sure later on in the year.  Until then, have a good one!

7 Responses

  1. Anonymous
  2. Jane

    Why not apply for a job teaching secondary social studies, for which you are trained and certified, through a school district as a typical teacher would do who is looking for a job?

    Why go through TFA, where you have been assigned to Special Ed, for which you are not trained (I assume)? It seems to me that special ed students are particularly challenging to reach, have incredibly diverse needs, and IEPs are binding legal documents for which educators should be trained to write, implement, and manage. In my opinion, this is not be a population to be served by TFA teachers who are not highly qualified.

  3. Jane

    I commented here yesterday, but am not sure where it went. I know this site is having some glitches, so maybe that’s the case.

    I was wondering why you didn’t simply apply for a teaching job through a school district, to teach high school social studies for which you are trained and certified and qualified to teach?

    Why would you pursue TFA, when you are already certified, and when TFA has placed you to teach in an area for which you are NOT trained or certified? I have concerns over TFA continuing to place in Special Ed, with students who have the greatest need and teachers who are not trained or equipped to help them. Especially considering that IEPs are binding legal documents determining the services these students will receive.

    Since you are trained and certified for social studies, and you seem to be expressing a passion for education and to work with at-risk students, why not honor those students by choosing to teach within your qualified field? Doing otherwise seems like a disservice to the kids you are so passionate about helping.

  4. Jane

    Ha, now I am seeing both comments. Sorry!

  5. midwestdude

    Hello! Sorry I didn’t see your comments until now as I just recently discovered I have to approve them in order for them to appear.

    I do have a passion for education and plan to continue I have applied for social studies teaching jobs when I was looking for various opportunities/job searching prior to accepting the Fulbright and the position I am currently working in. As I’m sure you aware, seeing as how you seem pretty well-versed in the education realm, social studies is not an in-demand content area, particularly if you are not a coach in a particular sport that the school needs. I had a few interviews for social studies positions, but no offers, even in high-need areas that I applied for.

    One of the reasons I did apply for TFA was for the opportunity to work with students in other content areas where there is a greater need, such as special education. Where I am not certified in SPED, I do have some training and experiences with students with special needs through my education degree and teaching experiences in and out of schools, including adhering to regulations outlined by a student’s IEP.

    And I do agree that these students would be best served by those who have more training. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to fill these positions, particularly in the high-needs areas that TFA teachers work in. For example, an urban district near my hometown, the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, had 84 unfilled teaching positions after the first academic quarter in October!

    In my opinion, it’s better to have a full-time teacher, even if they only have the five-ish weeks of training and a couple of graduate education courses, than a short-term substitute or even a teacher with an emergency certification with zero teaching experience/training.

    Thanks for your input and reading my blog! Hope you continue to follow it.

  6. Bethany

    Hi Ben!

    I recently read your blog and decided to follow your journey. Within a month I found out that I am also going to be in Chicago teaching SPED! (To up the creep factor, I’m also from Ohio and have just finished a year and a half in the South.)

    ANYWAY, I’d love to chat and get your insight on how to prepare for the certification tests!

    Hope to talk to you soon,


  7. midwestdude

    No way! I’m going to send you an email! That’s so cool that you’re going to be in Chicago with the rest of the SPED cohort! Talk to you/see you soon!

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A chronicle of my time teaching in inner-city Chicago

Special Education

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