Taking Notes

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Jun 15 2011

On Drinking the Kool-Aid

One of the great things about keeping a blog or really any kind of journal is that I can give myself a pep-talk but disguise it  “social-networking” or “self-expression.”  Here’s today’s pep-talk… err I mean blog post.

Throughout induction and institute, my peers and I have had a running joke about who is and who isn’t “drinking the kool-aid.”  You know, the TFA kool-aid.  Embodying the core values, the power of the self fulfilling prophecy, the urgency of our community’s need, etc.  It seems like everyone on staff is ready to dish out the kool-aid 24/7.  Institute and induction are basically an all-you-can-drink kool-aid fest.

kinda creepy, right?

"Ohhh Yeah"

That’s all fine by me, because I am an avid kool-aid drinker myself and have been ever since being taught by a CM alum in the ninth grade.  So, I’ve really liked being around other drinkers of the kool-aid (DOTKA, for short).  However, I recognize that for many of fellow 2011s, it was a little too much kool-aid.

Now that teaching has begun, I realize that calling these beliefs “kool-aid” does not nearly do justice to how nutritious they are.

Mid-way through the first week of lessons, I have started to notice two camps amongst my 2011 cohort: those who are discouraged, and those who are determined.  Admittedly, there will likely be some flip-flopping over the course of institute.  Furthermore, there have been times where I myself have felt both discouraged AND determined.

But the whole point of this post is that it seems to me as if all those who could be grouped into the “determined” category… are drinkers of the kool-aid (DOTKA’s).  Not that DOTKA’s have necessarily been more successful.  I certainly have not.  It’s just that there’s something in that kool-aid that makes you keep going (high fructose corn syrup?).

I think my lesson today is a good example of that.  I struggle to envision a way in which my first day of teaching at institute could have gone worse.  Two of my students were crying by the end of class, I had to separate 2 separate groups of students for hitting each other, and only got 2 of my 11 students master the day’s objective.  I failed my kids in almost every way.

But, even though I teared up at least three times (and counting?) today, I’m still drinking the kool-aid.

I’ve heard that if you’re stuck on a desert island, you can sustain yourself on only watermelon for upwards of 3 weeks.  If institute is a desert island (and here in ATL it’s definitely hot enough to be) then the kool-aid is my watermelon.  The kool-aid gives me the motivation and the tools to persevere, so I’ll keep drinking it til my lips turn blue.

To all my fellow DOTKA’s- Cheers.

8 Responses

  1. Wess

    CHEERS!! This makes me so happy.

    I remember looking at everyone on staff and thinking the same thing–”are they really ALL this crazy about TFA? Is every single one of them really a DOTKA?” … they are. But the dishing out of Kool-Aid isn’t as slippery as I thought when I was doing Induction and Institute. It’s just how DOTKAs think. My theory is that in the TFA world, DOTKAs are allowed to truly blossom and express our love for these kinds of idealistic beliefs and habits. With idealism comes optimism. With optimism comes… well, determination and longevity. :)

    • takingnotes

      Yeah I agree with you. Everyone on staff is used to being around TFA staff and fellow DOTKA’s all the time they don’t even realize when they’re dishing it! Not intentional propaganda, just excessive enthusiasm- like I said, fine by me!

      I’m thinking the TFA store should offer a “drinkin’ the kool aid” shirt.

  2. parus

    I see your analogy, and raise you a metaphorical cactus

    • takingnotes

      The cactus is one of the most resilient plants out there… so if we’re still speaking metaphorically I wouldn’t mind being a cactus on a desert island

  3. Gary Rubinstein

    Only 11 kids in your class? What’s the average size of a summer school class at your institute? Kool-Aid will only get you so far. You’re going to need some protein I think. Good luck, and let me know if you have any questions.

    • takingnotes

      Thanks for the reaching out- I’m not sure about our whole institute, but for our school site we have a pretty typical class size.

    • thelearningcurve

      I’m at the same institute and most classes, depending on school and age of the students being served, range from 10 to 20 students as much as I can tell. There are a few outliers, of course, but 11 isn’t really atypical for elementary this year it appears.

  4. Great post! We have shared your post on Kool-aid Drinkers Anonymous’ Facebook page…


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Elementary Education

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