Caroline in the Delta

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Jan 04 2011

The Great Return

I am thinking about how today was what some call “the second first day of school,” the first day back after Christmas, and how I will only have one more “second first day of school” before my teaching commitment is over. I don’t know if that makes me feel guilty or like a wimp or both.

I’m remembering my roommate from Institute, how she told me about a mutual friend a few months into teaching, maybe October. In a hushed voice, “She’s not doing very well. I mean, she counts down her days by putting big X’s on her calendar. She started taking anti-depressants.” Now I look up at the calendar hanging next to my door, with X’s over the days from this month. But doesn’t everyone do that?

My break was an absolute break. Selfishly, I spent the entire (ENTIRE) two weeks focusing exclusively on myself. I may have spent four hours reading How to Teach Adolescent Writers and I may have spent one hour at Starbucks inputting grades and three hours at the Common Cup in Chicago talking to my PD and attempting some excuse for a lesson plan. Maybe. But I don’t feel I did anything productive.

Today wasn’t easy. It wasn’t hard, it wasn’t grueling, it wasn’t easy. I hate feeling that the large majority of my shortcomings as a teacher are personal. That’s probably the hardest part of the job. If only I was more organized. If only I called more parents. If only I assigned class jobs when I said I would. If only I followed through. If only I was firm and fair.

Laura reminds me it’s just a severe case of tunnel vision. She reminds me to look at the periphery, how many blessings constantly surround us. Roommates. Community. Paychecks. Friends.

On the 11 hour drive back down here I stopped on a highway about two hours outside of Dumas. I cut my engine and lights and rolled down my window and just stuck my head out. Rural Arkansas is incredible. After the perpetual gray of Michigan’s winter night skies– never totally dark because of the clouds and reflecting snow –it was overwhelming to see so many stars. To be back in this winter blackness. I’ve never loved Michigan winters, but when I was there I would catch myself standing outside at night, noticing the gray. It’s so different. Here winter is black. Not something I was prepared for.

One of my students brought me a necklace from Mexico today. It’s engraved with my last name and a picture of Hello Kitty. Two students asked if I would grade essays they wrote over the break. What! One boy handed one in and it’s all about the college he wants to go to and why.

I am amazed, floored, at the potential in every human life. It’s too much to take. I wish I knew how to tap into it, how to motivate these students and push them to the right corners of libraries and knowledge. I wish I knew, wish I knew.

One Response

  1. There is so much potential in our students, it is our job to foster that, nuture them and steer them in the right direction. When they show such enthusiasm as the students as you mentioned, embrace that and encourage them.

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