Caroline in the Delta

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Jan 29 2011

Can barely speak.

It’s partially (largely) from the three cups of coffee I had at brunch this morning (I haven’t had that much coffee in quite a while, cut waaay back post-Christmas), but I am shaking and happy.

Sitting at the cafe we’ve frequented all year, I’m loving Little Rock. Loving that it’s 60 degrees and January outside. Delta winters might be my favorite thing about joining TFA (okay, maybe a close second after my students). One of our friends is playing cello on the pedestrian bridge, another is playing guitar, as we sit here and work. (“Work” as I’m still FB chatting and updating my blog… I can’t help it… I’m too excited!)

This week was my most objective-driven week since maybe September. My kids are getting used to me. I’m starting to have solid management for the first 20 minutes of class (the actual writing part is still a struggle, but baby steps here…) I’m building prompts in packets, where information gets tacked on. I’ve gotten back into the habit of tracking and sharing comparative averages with each class, which is helping with motivation.

In Arkansas we have a program called Accelerated Reader, or AR. Right now the school is having Book Wars, a program where each class in 4th-6th grades competes to have the most AR Points. Points are awarded when students read a book and take a quiz on the book they read. My class last week had a resounding ZERO POINTS. ZERO. This last week, they moved up to 54 points! It was enough for the librarian to give them each a prize, and for me to give ten class points (virtually unheard of). I’m so proud of them, but we have a long long way to go.

I still don’t love getting up in the morning, but I enjoy parts of every single class period. My students understand more and more of my directions. I notice new tiny solutions to big problems in my classroom daily, which is improving my life and the lives of my students. Fewer communication break downs, shorter conversations (because I’ve realized how to shorten a LOT of my presentation in everything from intro to new material to dealing with behavior problems). I’ve learned to notice behavior problems early and deal with them early (I talked to one mom at McDonald’s and the next day had immediate very clear progress with her son; I saw one student starting to get too excited about defiance so immediately sent him to the dean without a referral, just to have a conversation– immediate results).

Slowly, slowly. I’m starting to understand more and more why a third year would be an opportunity to teach and know what I’m doing (more or less). I’m starting to see huge errors I made in the beginning of the year. I’m completely understanding how when this year is over, these kids are going to take substantial pieces of my heart with them. I am so blessed to have this experience, to meet all of these beautiful young people, to spend an hour with them every day, to share my intense love for writing with them the best I can.

Things aren’t perfect, far far from it, but my energy is coming back. The sun is coming back. I’m making better decisions. I’m having more fun. I love the Delta.

3 Responses

  1. Progress is a beautiful thing, isn’t it? So what are the options regarding the third year?

    • HAH! As if I can even begin to contemplate that!
      One option is staying put. The vast majority of TFA teachers are more than welcome to hold their positions. In AR, that would mean finishing my certification & getting a 5 year license. Staying a third year would also open the opportunity to go to school for administration (they usually require three years in the classroom). I can look at teaching in other districts or charter schools as well. AR has a pretty decent certification that transfers to (I think) 48 states. So teaching is option 1.

      I’ve also thought about moving to a different position within TFA. The Detroit corps re-started again this year, and I’m really interested in investing in my homestate! I would look into admin or leadership positions within the organization and maybe move back to metro-Detroit.

      OR grad school?

      OR move to NYC and try to get a job in the creative industry. When I was deciding if I was going to do TFA or not I was interviewing for a position at HUGE, which is a design firm in Brooklyn (that’s expanded cross-country and internationally since I interned there as a freshman).

  2. Cindy

    Sunshine, sunshine , the magic of sunshine!
    Way to go Caro, on the immediate results! Keep it up – all of it! The struggle, the work, the intertwining of hearts . . . you still make me proud!

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