Behind the Blog: EduBlogger Series | Tom DeRosa

    “I Want to Teach Forever”

    Tom DeRosa started teaching 8th Grade U.S. History in 2003 as a Teach for Americacorps member in Rio Grande Valley of Texas. After completing his 2 year commitment, he took on the challenge teaching for the Juvenile Justice Alternative Education Program (JJAEP) where he taught math (5th grade through Pre-Calculus). Since then he’s taught high school math at both district and public charter schools. Tom is the author of,”Ten Cheap Lessons: Easy, Engaging Ideas for Every Secondary Classroom“, and has just completed work on a new book entitled “Teaching is Not a Four Letter Word: How to Stop Worrying and Love the Job”.

    He currently works for JDEA Public Schools, a charter school organization in South Texas.

    His blog can be found here: http://www.teachforever.com

    How long have you been blogging for? Where did the concept of “TeachForever” come from?

    I Want to Teach Forever has been active for a little over 2 years. I had previously written private blogs for my family and friends to keep them updated with my life. Since I was teaching at the time in Southern Texas, which was considered one of the most challenging parts of the country, it was hard to explain exactly what I was dealing with in my classes to my family who lived in New Jersey. Most of my posts started out very negative and focused on everything going wrong in my classroom. I took some time off from blogging to separate myself from the frustration because I wasn’t helping myself as a teacher by complaining. I knew that when I started writing again, I wanted to only focus on the positive (i.e. sharing lesson plans, learning from classroom experiences, and teaching advice for teachers). With this as my main focus, it helped me become a better teacher and it forced me to write better. It was a great outlet.

    How do you come up with your topics to blog about?

    As I mentioned before, I started looking for the positive side of things, the inspirational moments. I wanted to share these moments and explain to others the reasons why I do what I do. I want to share my passion for teaching with everyone. I’m very good at creating engaging lesson plans, so this was one of the main things I felt compelled to share. I’m always reading so when I see something that’s helpful or harmful I’ll comment on it. I also find sharing links with other people is also very useful.

    How do you integrate technology in your classroom?

    Many of the schools I have taught at didn’t have quality, working technology available to them. There are plenty of tools that many teachers find useful that I don’t feel are needed (i.e. interactive whiteboard – to me it’s just another excuse for teachers to stand in front of the room. These tools do not involve or engage students). Because of the limited technology resources in my schools, I had to think of ways I could create lessons to engage my students without these special expensive classroom tools. And that’s what I did. Many of my blog posts share my perspective and lesson plans in hopes that teachers with similar limitations can learn and better their own classrooms.

    Why did you choose the title, “I Want to Teach Forever”?

    It actually came from an inspirational story from a student I taught at JJAEP. I had a student that had a tough time in school, so I tried to work with her to build up her confidence inside school, as well as help her with her issues outside of school. She was a kid that never said thank you or went out of her way to talk to anyone. At the end of the year, she wrote a poem about how I had inspired her. When I read this poem my reaction was exactly those words, “I want to teach forever”. That was one of the greatest feelings I’ve ever had. I realized this is what I need to be doing; and that teaching is the greatest job I could have chosen.

    Do you keep in touch with your former students?

    As much as I can. For many of my students, technology isn’t easily accessible. As they get older and go to college I hope they’ll seek me out to update me how they are doing. The students that I do run into always are excited to tell me how they’re doing in class. I hear, ” I’m doing really good this year”, “I’m doing great in Pre-Calculus”, and “I got an A!”, with the hopes I’m going to respond with how proud of them I am and of course I couldn’t be more proud.

    To read more from Tom DeRosa and the impact he has had onn his former students read, “Joy and Triumph on Graduation Day

    Do you have a favorite memory from teaching?

    Yes. Of course I want my kids to do well, but I only put a certain amount of faith in the results of the standardized tests that we have to give to our students every year. Teaching at La Joya ISD had improved my teaching skills and I felt this would help my kids do much better. I knew we weren’t going to set any records, but I was hoping for a huge leap from the year before. When we finally got the test results, I couldn’t believe how well we did. We wound up doing better than I ever expected and had higher scores than all the other high schools in the district and beat the state average. It was hard to not break up when I was telling my kids this amazing news. I told them the results and how proud of them I was. They were so happy. I remember one kid in particular who didn’t even think she was going to pass the test going in. Not only did she pass the test, but she got commended the highest recognition she could have received on this test. I couldn’t have been prouder of my students. It was a completely fulfilling way to end a great year.

    As the author of, “Ten Cheap Lessons”, have you used many of the lessons you talk about in your book?

    I’ve used them all. I feel like part of the appeal of the book is that each of the ideas is classroom-tested. I don’t make a big deal of the book at school because I don’t want to seem like I’m bragging. I’m very proud of it though, and publishing it was a way for me to take my best lesson ideas and put it together into something useful for other teachers. One of my students recognized some of the lessons from my book after we had already done them in class and when she noticed that I had written and created these lessons, she was really impressed. In general, writing this book proved to me that I had the discipline to sit down and write something that can be useful to other educators. I just completed my second book about how to survive teaching. It’s a rough job and I’ve been through a lot. I think I have had a good perspective on how to make things in your classroom work and how to not get burnt out.

    This is part of Schoology’s Behind the Blog: EduBlogger Series. The Schoology Team would like to thank all of the wonderful education bloggers who have participated in the series. For more information about Schoology and these bloggers, please contact Crystal Grandison, Schoology Community Manager, via email crystal@schoology.com.
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