December 21, 2011

Teach NOLA

I recognize that I have a very short attention span and you guys are always hearing about my latest and greatest life plan. Usually I jump around a lot until I’m right down to the wire and then settle on one course of action and with this brand spanking new degree my courses are pretty wide open.

So here’s the latest: teach NOLA. Everyone out there remembers Katrina, some of you were even in it or knew people that were. A lot of damage was done, people were displaced, whole neighborhoods were knocked down and over the last few years people have been trying to put their lives back together. Part of those lives involve schooling. 

The New Orleans school system (LA in general, really) was never good. That’s an understatement. Since 1992 (probably much earlier) Louisiana has tested significantly lower than the national average in reading, writing, math and science. Since Katrina things have only gotten worse and students have been slow to get back to school. Some families were relocated to other states; some kids were left with no home, broken families, desperate neighborhoods. As of now only 60%of students have returned to New Orleans schools, up from 47% on 2007. One good thing that Katrina did was draw attention to the state of New Orleans schools and give them a reason to clean up their act. The city of New Orleans has a program they're calling teachNOLA fellowships, where people can apply to be teachers in high need schools. 

See that? I qualify for all of that. There are health benefits and the salary is pretty good too.

Things I Need To Consider:
  • If my application is accepted I have to go have an interview in New Orleans within two weeks
    • I think they are trying to encourage locals and I understand that they want to meet potentials in person, but come on people!
  • Salary versus cost of living
    • Potential Salary: $40k/year
    • Average rent: $400-$600/month = $4,800-$7,200/year
  • Living in general
    • How do you think a southern school district will feel about one of there teachers living in a van? hmm...
  • There is a $30 Application Fee
    • It's like a college application! I can request a waiver so not too much of an expense.
  • The application deadline is January 23rd. 
    • Not much time to dilly dally!
So this is what's going through my head:
  1. I can use my degree, which is centered around high needs education
  2. Working there will get me a teaching licence which I can then use to teach in most other states
    • In order to teach in another state I need to take some tests and do in classroom training
  3. I would have summers off so I wouldn't have to stay in the hot and muggy weather
    • Summers would also give me a chance to do some research, travel, or write 
  4. I would be living in New Orleans!
Come on ladies and gents: I need my global peanut gallery for this one. What do you think of my plan?


  1. I live less than 50 miles from New Orleans and I haven't been there since I was driving a truck in the '90's. They shoot people randomly there and you would be safer in Baghdad. Crime is rampant and part of the crime is the sheriff/police department. They are the biggest gangs. They don't just violate the constitution they disregard it entirely.
    Education in the lower grades is non-existent. We found that grade school and middle school teachers cannot send a grammatically coherent note home. Kids that have difficulty learning are just dropped over the side.
    We have an 18 year old that managed to get through the 9th grade. As soon as he was able to give up he did. Now he is just fodder for the prison system which is a thriving business. Even here the parish president is pushing to divert money from the library to build a new sub-standard jail.
    Louisiana is a good-ole-boy state and I don't think you are a good-ole-boy.
    Bye the way they started school in August this year so you don't escape the hot humid air you can drink.
    Otherwise go for it. You would raise the average IQ here by a minimum of 50 percent I believe. When you cross the border you would instantly be elevated to genius status.
    These are my thoughts and beliefs based on living here for eighteen years.

    1. I am a born and raised New Orleanian and I can't help but reply to this negative portrayal of my beloved city. Yes, crime is an issue; Of course, the education system needs improvement and our weather is a bit on the rough side; but with that said (which is to declare the obvious in this state, as well as any other state, after all-we do have our own flaws) there is so much magic that lingers in this historic atmosphere.
      Not only are we rich in cultural, the standard of southern hospitality rings true. "Being a good neighbor" is part of our unspoken motto. Whether it's helping a neighbor with groceries, wishing a stranger to have "a good one" or giving directions around the French Quarter, fellow New Orleanians are constantly sending out positive vibes, as well as a helping hand.
      There is still so much that can be done, so much that can be salvaged with our younger students. Every child deserves a teacher/mentor/instructor/guardian who can establish an environment that foster a child's creative form of expression, whether that form is in academics, recreational sports or in the production of "good moral fiber".
      To say that it's inevitable that our children will not progress and will, in turn, be the down fall of our society is baffling. As adults, as educators, as human beings... We are to blame for their lack in success. I strongly encourage those who are considering teaching in New Orleans to do so.
      TeachNola is a wonderful program that rears better instructors and teachers with apt approaches in reinventing New Orleans education system.
      Let's not allow our young minds of tomorrow wallow in the shadows of the fallen education system any longer. We can be that change, we can actually help our future generations succeed and we can even be that small positive influence in a child's life.
      I'm a 24 post-grad being under review for this program. I can only hope I'm accepted and have the skills and opportunities to actually make a difference in the youth of today.
      Please, please... please do not let this man's view of this city discourage your image of the Big Easy. Life here is great. We only really care about a few things... good food, good tunes and good people. You should join!

  2. Well from my part of the earth it looks wonderful. A lot of pluses and a few negs which I think you could work around. I don't know anything about New Orleans except for the Mardis Gras. Thats only because I hear of it. It sounds like it would get you ahead and it also they need you . They need fresh minds like yours.

  3. They have almost the same program in Las Vegas salary is less, but its Vegas, I think its a nice idea and if you can get in than do it.

  4. Sounded good till I read oldfools rendition. Look up demographics for the area. You will get a good chart with cost of living, hospitals per people, ages, saleries and very importantly, crime statistics that are compared to nationa averages.

  5. Doesn't sound good. It does seem to be drug related murders so if you are not in the wrong place at the wrong time...I read thru several sites with demograpics, its important to note the dates on your resources.

  6. here is one link

  7. I've been reading you n silence for a while now, but the silence is ending.....

    I don't think any company would want to know that their employee is living in a van/car. The acceptance wouldn't be there for that part, but why would they have to know? You've kept your living situation to a select few now, so keep that part up.

    Now on the other part, should you do it? Question is WHY are you thinking of doing it? For the money - bad reason to totally move your life. For the chance to get your certificate to teach - great reason. To be able to say "hey, l did this?" - great reason (in my opinion).

    No matter what, you always have an out. You can always change your mind. No harm, no foul. Throw your hat in the ring. It might bring you many pleasant memories ......

  8. Are there minimum requirements for staying if you got there and decided it wasn't for you? You might feel obliged to at least finish out a school year for kids' continuity; could you do that if the situation were not great?

    How is stealth van-dwelling in NOLA? That might be a question for the Vandwellers. Are there residential RV parks that might allow a van? It seems like residential standards may be very low there now, since Katrina et. al, so that might be an option.

    I imagine that any area offering this type of fellowship is doing so because the jobs are no sinecures. I think you probably already accept that this will be hard, frustrating work.

    There is a woman who comments on our blog sometimes who is from NOLA, and who is very articulate about the good and bad. If you would like me to put you in contact, email me at whotookmybucket at gmail dot com.


  9. I would really worry about you there, especially if you are not dwelling in a secure structure.

  10. Reminds me of many years ago when I wanted to move from a medium-sized Midwestern city to Philly because they had a police cadet program that you could enter at the age of 19. After visiting friends in South Philly, I realized that I would indeed be a 'babe in the woods' and would suffer from extreme culture shock.

  11. There are few helpful reviews about teachnola online. Alot of them seem to be pretty canned, maybe planted. Here is the real deal from someone who did it and is actually sane. The skinny is that it is a good program, but a significant risk. I don't believe it's as selective as they say; they want to be selective and they market it as such, but they need numbers. It's probably true that they receive over 1,000 applications, but here's how I believe it works (roughly)

    1,000 applications received
    450 get invited to interview day
    225 are accepted into the program
    180 accept the offer
    150 are actually physically present for opening ceremonies
    110 stay to finish the training
    100 successfully complete the training and receive the teachnola stamp
    85 are hired as full time teachers in New Orleans
    60 finish their first year of teaching
    45 return for a second year

    So technically yes, 4-5% "make the cut." But it is rather misleading and skewed for marketing purposes. In my group of six on interview day, four were "selected." Two of those four gave horrible interview presentations.

    The program itself is very intense. Count on staying awake working until midnight, getting up at 5:30am and constantly giving presentations/lessons; you will also work long hours on the weekend during training. They won't tell you that in the brochures. They want to weed out the ones that don't want it VERY badly because it's their rep on the line if a candidate quits and leaves a school high and dry, which happens alot.

    I have utmost and highest respect for teaching, true teaching. But as for the job itself, you will not be Coach Carter, Lean on Me, or Dead Poets Society. You will be a glorified babysitter and you will constantly be asking yourself what you got yourself into. Frankly, It sucks.

    New Orleans is great. All cities have crime. NOLA is wonderful and it's a special place, but it's a city you have to give your life for.

    If you go to an interview; take the initiative to visit a couple school's classrooms. Make sure they're real schools, not a "pet project" like KIPP, where the students pay tuition and test in. You owe yourself that if you're considering such a sacrifice. Most of them don't mind if you stop in to observe.

    I could talk all day but my bottom line advice is to only do it if you are young, single, no strings and can take a setback if it doesn't work out.

  12. I'm wondering if you ended up doing TeachNOLA and how you came to your decision. Thanks!

    1. I was accepted to TeachNOLA, but did not end up taking the position. I had a few reasons but the big ones were these: 1) I just couldn't seem to save enough money to live with no income for the three months it would take me to get through training and get a job. 2) A job was not a sure thing, which didn't sit well with me. 3) I would end up owing Teach NOLA money for the training and support. In the end I figured that if I really wanted to teach in New Orleans I could get there a different way. Good luck!

  13. The above post is right on. I dropped out of Teachnola during training. When it really came down to it, I just couldn't bring myself to drink the Kool Aid and they really push it on you. I honestly think getting out was the best decision of my life.

  14. you have to pay for the training they provide? I inquired about the TEACHNola program back in 2009-2010 and I was never told you had to pay for the training. I was told it was an on the job certification program and once completed you would be fully certified to teach in Louisiana, with a commitment to teach at a high need school in New Orleans for a specific number of years. Did they change that? because who wants to pay for an on the job program when you can do it in your home state?


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