A Year in Review: Reflecting on 2013-2014

Cara Ciccarelli | St. Louis ‘05

The weather is getting warmer, the sun is staying out later, and best of all, state testing is over! With the last days of school in sight, it is easy for thoughts to drift to the relaxing days of summer that will be here before we know it. Before we get there though, it is important to reflect back on the challenges and successes of this year. Just as I hope my science lessons will stick with my students, I hope I can remember some of the important lessons they taught me.

Obviously as data-driven as TFA is, one of the first places I look is test scores. I am thrilled that many of my students made huge gains throughout the year. What worked for them? I’m thrilled for Brianna who went from bottom of the class to the top. How can I help celebrate her success and reinforce that hard work is often rewarded? On the other hand, what about Robert, who spent most of the year in-school suspension and completely bombed his EOC (End of Course) Exam? Could I have done more to support him?

Of course test scores are only part of the story. I am still saddened by the empty seat in my third period class. One of my bubbly, smiley young men was a victim of gun violence and passed away just shy of his sixteenth birthday. Did I do enough to help and support his peers in the aftermath? Am I truly doing all that I can to change the trajectory of my students so this won’t happen to more of them?

With my seniors ready to graduate and enter the “real world” I wonder how prepared they are. For many of them, I have seen tremendous growth over the past three years. Brittany, who recently smiled and asked me, “Remember how bad I was sophomore year?” has matured into a driven young lady. But I worry about Cedric, who has stopped attending my class and seems more worried about his fast-food job than school. He has amazing potential but I fear that it will be underutilized if he doesn’t make better choices.

I don’t think it matters if you are finishing your first year in a classroom or your twentieth; reflection is the foundation for growth. It is easy to save the fantastic activities that had every student engaged and throw out the ones that flopped. It is harder, but equally necessary, to think about lessons your students learned and lessons they taught you. What relationships did you build and where did you miss opportunities for connections? How can next year be the best year yet?

Congratulations on making it through another year and best wishes for a relaxing and rejuvenating summer!


All student names have been changed.


Cara Ciccarelli was a 2005 St. Louis corps member. She serves as the Alumni School Captain liaison to the Alumni Advisory Board and is currently reflecting on her ninth year in a St. Louis Public School classroom.

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