Caroline in the Delta

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Apr 23 2011


I hate feeling paralyzed from cliches. I am living eight hundred cliches at any given point. My heart is singing. I’ve found a groove. I am excited for life. My ability to write does not parallel the speed and complexity and enthusiasm of thought.

Last night Eliese was invited, and I was invited by default, to a veteran teacher couple’s home for Good Friday. Being raised Catholic, the sentiment already was a comfort. The fact that the wife is the 10th grade English teacher that I’ll be rooming with for a Little Rock conference this summer helps. Add to it that the invitation included attending a free Easter performance that their church was putting on that night, — one that you can see the set from the freeway when driving to Little Rock — and I was excited days in advance.

Thankfully, Eliese told them I’m vegetarian when the offer was extended. We arrived to a buzzing home with three incredibly polite children (Donivan – 7th grade, Daizha – 10th, N’Deea -12th), meat and spinach lasagna, and a warm welcome. The adults sat at the table for dinner, and the kids ate in the living room.

I hate how much description I put into this because I always feel like with this blog the courteous thing to do is to get to the point, to be concise and emphatic and witty. But maybe I don’t give [the assumed to be existent] readers enough credit? I’ll take my time for a minute.

For the first 20 minutes I was nervous, being in a home with a family that I don’t know well, in the Delta, nervous the food wouldn’t settle well (wouldn’t be the first time), or I’d be scrutinized for not being able to use silverware properly. Alas!

The conversation that proceeded for the two hours we sat at that table was one of the best I’ve had since moving to Southeast Arkansas. The fact that it was with people that are in no way affiliated with TFA made my heart swell and my brain ignite. Both are current teachers getting their masters in May. They both want to be principals. They both are very transparent and well-versed when talking about problems in our district and problems in the education system as a whole. They don’t criticize TFA, but don’t sing about it. They are realistic, grounded, intelligent, and articulate. The Mr. talks like a preacher, and I hang on every word without trying. He asked me about myself in the most genuine way anyone has inquired about me since moving here. I explained my life since elementary school in a nutshell and he was interested and engaged and asked questions and had a response.

It might be his military background that made me so drawn to him, but I instantly had such respect for this man, and wished him to be a surrogate Delta father (sorry dad! I have mountains for respect for you too, don’t worry!) I instantly felt validated and valued and worthwhile. The way I found out they’re studying to be principals is because after one of his tangents I said, “I have one question for you.” “Yes?” “Why aren’t you a principal?”

Working under a man like him would keep me here, without a doubt.


Earlier this week Kate was over to meet with me and go for a run. When the 3.5 miles were over, she decided to stay in Dumas for a webinar she had on school leadership through a TFA alumni group. She had me sit in for 30 minutes of it, and at the time I was vaguely interested.

I’ve spent a bit of time hypothesizing about where I will be in upcoming years. Now that I’m (ohmyGod) almost halfway finished with my TFA commitment, I have to start planning the post-TFA existence. Do I want to keep teaching? Do I want to go to grad school? Move to NYC? Go home to Michigan? Look into Detroit-TFA leadership?

One option that has presented itself, and been encouraged by my PD and others, is the idea of school leadership. Five, three, or a year ago I never, ever would have seen myself in a leadership position in a public school. Right now I don’t know if I see that happening. But driving to Little Rock with Eliese today I had my first serious consideration. I realized that right now I feel that no corporate America job, no project management job for some marketing or creative agency would give me the fulfillment I have as a teacher right now. I do not thinking classroom teaching is my final step in the education system. I do not think my personality is best suited to teach 6th grade writing for a long-term career.

But when I start to consider different roles in the public school system (I’m ruling out charter as I learn more about them, but who knows…), I I start to feel a little tickle in my neck. My arms feel tingly. My eyes dart around. Teaching teachers? Being an influential community member? Managing a … school?


I am scared to write more because it feels very sensitive in my head. But after 8 months in the classroom, it’s something I’m thinking about.

5 Responses

  1. Gotta love that tingle. Kind of how I’ve felt about health care/medicine — skip the messy clinical part, go straight to management/leadership

    • Wess

      “tingle” is EXACTLY the way to describe it. I had a similar tingle recently, hanging out with our new corps. Do I want to support teachers? … my eyes are darting around, too.

  2. Jessie

    Definitely something I’ve thought about, but I’ve discovered it’s awfully lonely at the top as well.

  3. Shoshana

    Wow! you have a lot to think about :) teaching changes everything doesn’t it.. :)

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