Caroline in the Delta

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Apr 04 2011

Let me show you what you’re missing: paradise*

*Title found only as I sit and listen to JB after school Monday, while perusing Wess‘s blog.

I am quietly sitting in the living room. Wedding Crashers just finished, even though I was intending to sleep before that could happen.

I sit surrounded by the papers I just graded. I finished stickering for the 6th grade “assessment wall”. It’s a wall in which my literacy coach tracks the progress of our students from their “chunk tests” — the results of the exams we give our students however many times a year from the curriculum we’ve purchased called The Learning Institute. I won’t lie, noticing the results (coupled with the loosely quoted “your students should not be underperforming, because you are too good and they are too good for that” from my PD last week, upon looking at my tracker) leaves me a little solemn.

Friday I ended fifth period so angry. They give me the impression that they are tired of teachers yelling at them, tired of being talked down to, so they created a class-wide support system. They are a tough bunch. Rowdy, excitable, great sense of humor that gets out of control quickly and frequently. Try to give them a guilt trip and they will laugh in your face maliciously. They will hurt your feelings to attempt to protect their own. That’s my hypothesis, at least.

I tend to over-plan and get into fits of anxiety on Sunday nights. It was 85 degrees outside today. I played soccer.

Yesterday was the last official ProSat of the year. It makes me angry, almost, that I can’t re-do the ones that already happened. When I zoned out or didn’t take advice seriously or was so lost I could hardly look at the speaker, let alone process what was being told to me.

I might be feeling slightly deficient, right now, in TFA terms. This is because state testing begins a week from tomorrow and although I feel incredibly calm about it… I guess that’s just it. I feel too calm. I am not as terrified and wrought with anxiety as I should be. Instead, I mentally¬†surrendered about two moths ago, when my tracker was a mess and my new objective, despite getting through “the hardest part”, was still to have a calm and balanced life, where work is important but it is not my whole life.

So I am failing my kids?! I know I will get comments about how wonderful I am (maybe) and how just being here is “making a difference”, and I know that, but that is not enough. It is hard to sit here and think that teaching might not be the best place for me, that TFA might have made these students lose a year instead of gain a year by hiring me. That their precious fragile futures are glass hovering above concrete. ¬†That Dumas is wonderful and I love it whole-heartedly, but I came here with more selfish intentions than are acceptable.

I did not expect this post to turn out like this, and I’m not at all in a bad or downhearted mood, my brain is just flooded, lately. Spring fever.

It’s also late, and I am going to sleep, but I will leave with something I wrote in paper journal number… maybe five, of the year. I wrote it while noticing my PD talk at ProSat, and want to repeat it as a reminder to myself. It’s also brimming with sentence fragments. Whoops.

All these people — what and who we are beneath these conferences, meetings, and summits. Who we are outside the fishbowl, outside the context of our current lives. Every once in a while there are glimmers where I am amazed and humbled being in the presence of — being permitted to interact with– Why am I allowed to be in this situation and what kind of obligations do I have as a result? If I fail to grow and strive to be closer to their level or at least take advantage of and attempt to respect and drink in and attempt to offer something back in return– It would be my ultimate failure to ignore the enrichment around me or to cower away from engagement in fear. I know I have value as a person, and that I have valid thoughts and reactions (whether others like or respect them or not, I am valid).

It has been an excellent past 10 days, despite the somewhat melodramatic nature of this post. Tomorrow will be beautiful, my kids will be gorgeous, and I will accomplish many things. Happy April.

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