Caroline in the Delta

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Sep 05 2010

The Notorious Word: Balance

Teach For America does an excellent job of piling and piling and piling things into your planner, teacher bag, pockets, car, house, back… Every moment in your day can be shadowed by what you need to do, what you should do, what you have to do, what you want to do. Then they smile at you and say, “But we know you can’t possibly do all these things. So choose what you can do, and make sure you have time for yourself. You have to maintain a Work/Life Balance.”

Oh, that.

Sarah told me the other day that it seems I really have that in check, but honestly I think I’m a little too far on the “life” side. I’m already worried I’m selling my students short, I’m too preoccupied with making sure I run three times — okay, I guess typing that out made me reconsider. My biggest preoccupations (if that’s a word) are running, talking to people on the “outside” a few times a week, and making my living space a place that removes stress, not adds to it. I can honestly, very honestly, say that I devote a minimum of 12 hours a day to teaching every week day. I’ve been sleeping an average of four hours a night, which is incredibly different than sleeping four hours a night in college. In college no one slept, in college I thrived on lack of sleep, in college I did not have to speak for seven hours a day, every day, on my feet, trying to guide the thoughts of 130 12-year-olds.

I can say this all day every day: I love Arkansas. I love my babies. I love teaching. I will be telling the truth. But this does not make it easier. This does not make me a better teacher. This does not ensure my students will do well this year, will get into pre-AP and AP classes, will make it to their dream schools of Yale and Harvard and Ole Miss. This will not make my students excellent writers or, as stated in our class goal, confident communicators.

Today was a “life” day. I graded some exit slips in the car on the way to the Pine Bluff Wal-Mart with Mitch. I graded some diagnostics on the couch while we watched The Outsiders. I ran three miles, slept in until 9:30, and organized my belongings in the bathroom I now share with two boys. I went out to the dinner and had a Margarita.

My nerves are slowly calming. It feels like it’s happening one by one, every day a tiny fraction of me feels more relaxed, more secure, more confident. This week I had a child enter my room in tears, and another leave my room in tears. I had students laughing about my knowledge of pop culture (specifically Ne-yo) and my lack of knowledge of football (juking? jooking? jucking?). I had 100% and 0% exit slips, a lesson I had to literally re-plan ALL of in one 15 minute lunch, two major coffee spills and five great days. Next week we start on Tuesday, but after that week we have seven in a row with no breaks. I’m terrified. I’m thrilled. I’m hopeful.

6 Responses

  1. Cindy

    Get some sleep.

    Know that your kids are getting 100% of you, and that is 100% than they had last year.

    Have a life, and don’t apologize for it.

    Make the guys keep up the mess they make in your bathroom.

    Continue to exemplify being a ‘confident communicator’ so your kids have that role model.

    You’re amazing. You make me proud. You fill my head with hope.

    • hahaha… I think that of the three of us that use the bathroom, I’ll be the messiest. ;) I’m lucky to live with a super neat-freak (Mitch) who keeps us all in line.

      Thank you thank you thank you for your constant support!!!

  2. Shoshana

    to sleepless in Arkansas,

    keep running :) it will keep you sane.. even when you’re exhausted. 加油 (jia yo) sister! (this is an all purpose mandarin word that pretty much means ‘i encourage you’)

    love you! please sleep! I know we’re sleepless sisters.. but sometimes we have to humble ourselves and just… SLEEP :)

    <3 Sleepless in Taiwan

  3. Jean

    Caroline – I know, just from the short time that I have known you, that you are going to impact your students in ways that you have never imagined. Students respond when they know they are cared about, and you show them that every day. We are very glad to have you on our staff, and especially blessed to have you in sixth grade!!! Jean

    • How sweet are you! It’s a nice surprise to have a Dumas-ian respond! Thank you for being such a calm and supportive influence already. I’M the one that’s blessed, being placed in such a wonderful place with wonderful people. I can’t tell you how appreciative I am that you explored this much into my happenings, to read and respond to my silly blog. :) thank you! And see you tomorrow…

  4. iTeach

    I am just a random non-TFA teacher who read your blog entry. I wanted to let you know that I appreciate how hard you are working – both for your students and for your life’s balance – because you’ll not hear that enough from people who truly understand how demanding teaching is.

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