The Workshop That Got Me Banished From The Institute

After my first year of teaching, I developed some ideas to have a more successful second year.  They worked, and I began spreading the word, informally, for the next couple of years.  Then in 1995, I created a workshop about the importance of classroom management and about what it means to be a ‘real’ teacher.  The workshop was so well received by CMs that I felt compelled to travel to the institute (there was only one at the time) for the next few years.  Eventually TFA stopped letting me present it.  They said it was because they were confident that all the ideas had been incorporated into the improved training model.  I had videotaped one presentation and had it up in parts on youtube for a few years now.  Recently I learned that my youtube limit was increased, so I thought people might want to watch it in one shot.  I’ve actually developed a lot of my ideas further in the 8 years since this workshop was taped.  If you go back to some of my first blog posts, you can see where these ideas went.

When I figure out how to put this freely onto iTunes, I’ll do that and update this post.

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11 Responses to The Workshop That Got Me Banished From The Institute

  1. Liv says:

    Hi Gary,
    I’m a 2011 CM currently at Institute, and I’ve been going through a few of your posts recently. I watched your workshop video, and it seems spot-on; I’m planning to buy your book as well before the school year. I’m currently teaching elementary summer school at Institute, and your perspective has been refreshing to read, in contrast to the official TFA stuff I hear for hours every day. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of it is useful. But definitely not all of it. I feel torn, because while I LOVE my kids and teaching them, I just want this experience to be over with–tension with collab group, having a million people observe me all the time, etc. Even though I’m working hard and (I think) doing a good job, I just feel like (and I know many other CMs do too) I’m doing everything wrong after I talk to a staff member. This morning, for example, I was debriefed on yesterday’s in-depth observation while my collab group was in the room. This made it really uncomfortable, as I felt like my weaknesses were just being broadcast to the world. Right after that, I was pulled out of the CMA room by another staff member who wanted to “talk to me” about being distracted/going on gmail during her sessions. Now, while I often do not pay attention when the information is unhelpful or repetitive (about 70% of it), I have been using gmail to create a thread of notes to myself about her sessions (not to mention the fact that I don’t really appreciate her sneaking around and apparently positioning herself so that she can check up on me). I don’t know, it’s just–so controlling. I have to keep reminding myself that Institute staff are not my superiors, they are not the ones hiring me to teach in a school, etc. But we’re made to feel like–um, children? Overall, the atmosphere is just very condescending–I’m not a “rah rah” kind of person, so to have a culture of spirit contests and constant displays of ‘energy’ just feels ridiculous for 22 year olds who are supposed to be young professionals. I’m not at summer camp for a reason.
    It seems to me like many teachers are attracted to the profession because they are overall very autonomous, independent people who are able to self-direct and -correct. So why does Institute seem to be geared to the exact opposite personality?
    Sorry for rambling on, but these are just some thoughts about what I’ve seen so far. I’m in a bad mood because of what happened this morning, but overall I’m really excited about teaching.

    • Gary Rubinstein says:

      Thanks for the post. I guess you’ll have to take notes manually and then gmail them later, if they’re getting uptight about that. What’s funny is that most staff members represent a certain type of TFA CM, that people like you (and me) don’t relate to very well. It’s like they were cloned. The fact is that most CMs are a lot more sophisticated than that. If you liked the workshop, please spread the word. Only about 60 views, I was hoping for at least 1000.

  2. Ray says:

    I really enjoy reading your blog and find that you make some interesting points. I would like to offer some comments about your workshop. I feel that you spent too much time describing you troubled first year and were too brief and sketchy on your description of what you did to make the next year go so well. One of the most interesting parts of your workshop came in the last few minutes when you mentioned that you made a practice of calling student’s homes without warning. I’d like to hear more about the nuts and bolts of how you made this work. How often did you do this? What kind of behavior led to a call? Did you ever make a call to report something positive?

    I think that many of those who follow your blog would appreciate a post that spelled out in greater detail what you did during your second year that made it so successful.

    • Gary Rubinstein says:

      Yeah, in that workshop I had accidentally skipped the most important part, where I make some concrete suggestions. Fortunately someone asked about them at the end, but it was supposed to be right in the middle. I’ve blogged a lot about advice for first year CMs. I’ll make a post that puts links to the most pertinent ones. If you click on ‘Common Teacher Mistakes’ in my Categories on the right pane, you can see some useful stuff.

  3. Moody Towers says:


    Definitely make random positive phone calls. Parents are shocked (and happy) and students know you’re fair.


    • E. Rat says:

      I’m going to put this in all caps: ASK KIDS ABOUT THIS FIRST. Some families don’t want to hear from the school, period. Other families far prefer text messaging or other methods of contact. Or it may be best to call grandma, but not the child’s residence. Unless your students are very young (in which case you’ve probably met a caregiver anyway), they will know the best way (if any) to contact their families.

  4. Juan says:

    Hey Gary,

    I’m extremely happy that I’ve stumbled across your blog posts. Mainly because upon reading the author of the posts I thought to myself “could this be my math teacher from high school?” and yes, yes it is. My girlfriend is enduring Philly’s TFA Institute as we speak and I am absolutely going to refer her to your articles. I wish I had known all these years that you were involved in TFA before teaching my math class. Keep doing what you’re doing Mr. Rubinstein.

    Juan J.
    ’07 alum from the HS where you taught me

  5. dp says:

    Hi Gary,
    I remember crying every morning while getting dressed to go to work my first few months of teaching (actually Oct-Dec). I only got through because my husband made me promise to finish the first year before I quit. Now it’s 18 years later. Can’t believe I’m still at it.

    Six months ago I was asked to do a workshop at a college on classroom management for new teachers. My reaction was, “Who, me???” but I really couldn’t get out of it. I think my management is haphazard, and I’m still not the typical “real teacher.”

    So in my desperation to prepare for the workshop and allay my fears of being called a fraud, I’ve bought a bunch of classroom management texts. Some of the advice: “Oh, I already do that… ” or “Hmm, maybe I should try that.” or “Yikes, I could never do that!”

    So, now finally found you and bought your books. Now there’s this blog. Thank you, thank you, for the reality check. Everything you say rings true. For instance, I could never post consequences or keep count of warnings. What a disaster–only needed to try that one once, though I still wonder what’s wrong with me that I can’t do these “real teacher” things. I was laughing out loud during that part of your presentation. Ditto on everything you say, such as surprise calls to parents.

    Thanks for your courage and frankness. Keep doing your good work. It’s good advice and confirmation for old teachers. And it’s especially good for the new teachers. In the old days, new teachers were just thrown into the classroom and just sank or swam. At least we were all aware that we got no help. New teachers nowadays have the onus of going through all that teacher training and still experiencing the daily disasters and failures (get used to them and learn to learn from them!).

  6. Jason Siegel says:

    Hi Gary. I was an 09 corps member, and I think your workshop is phenomenal. I passed the video to Emily Bobel, the executive director of TFA Bay, and she’s forwarding it to the PDs. She says she’ll never forget your training. Also, I really value your critical perspective on education reform; I find myself on your—and Ravitch’s—side. Keep up the great work.

  7. Nalin says:

    Gary, thanks for this post and many many others. I am presently a research engineer considering applying to the 2012 corps. I have some questions I would really like to ask you… would it be alright to email you directly? I am providing my email in the form field below, hopefully it shows up on your end.

    Thanks for your perspective.

  8. Pingback: TFA continues to set new corps members up for failure | Gary Rubinstein's Blog

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