Caroline in the Delta

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Jun 20 2011

Semi-Teacher Mode.

I am back in a dorm.

At six am this morning I was driving down 65, rationing my Red Bull for the two hour trip to Little Rock, and texting Andrew (am I allowed to write your name, Andrew?) well wishes for his first day teaching at Institute. One year ago that’s what I was doing: living at Delta State, attempting to learn to lesson plan (I never did get that TFA-desired score of “BP” – Beginning Proficient – for planning), constantly trying to smooth a lot of wrinkles back in Michigan via phone, starting a new life in the Delta.

Now I’m at the University of Arkansas, still learning to be a teacher. I spent all day in a classroom and was primarily distracted by one major thing:

My existence on a college campus as a young professional.

I am not here as a student. I am in the sense that I am gaining knowledge from experts, and that I have a peer group…. but my peers are as much as three decades older than me, and this conference was paid for by my district, and I’m wearing business casual clothes, and I don’t have any pressure for grades.

I was exhausted all day from the 15 hour drive from Michigan yesterday, and walking back to the student center remembered that my graduating class from the graphic design department at WMU thrived on three hours of sleep a night. We walked in a perpetual daze. We did homework until 4 and went to class at 8 (okay, 8:17 most of the time) CONSTANTLY.

I don’t know how we did it.

The actual conference (APSI) had an interesting first day. My district never gave me any sort of confirmation or directions about what I was supposed to do– something that didn’t strike me as strange until 1pm yesterday, as I was driving. In fact, I started to worry that I was unnecessarily driving back to the Delta. I have a tendency to mess up dates and wondered if the conference was even happening. At which point I immediately began freaking out and searching my things for my school calendar. As I drove, I googled the conference details and texted district friends asking for phone numbers of our AP coordinator. This morning I drove with fingers crossed that I was registered at all. Strange.

When we were being trained for ICE group (more explanation about that new TFA-commitment when fall comes), I was introduced to an amazing, sarcastic description of Corps Members: uniquely burdened. YES. There was more, too, I think, but that’s the important part. That is how we all act– and really it’s not just TFA, it’s teachers as a whole. I’ve found through various professional development (TFA and not) that most teachers feel this pressing desperate burden, then act as if no one has any idea what it could possibly feel like to be this tortured professional with the future of American humanity shielded by merely their hands and loving reprimands. When we talk, we talk like we are uniquely burdened. Even in TFA, where it’s painfully obvious that we are all struggling. We all feel isolated, powerless, –what’s another word for desperate? We feel really desperate.

Maybe I’m doing teachers everywhere a disservice by assuming they feel like me, but from the short year of experience I have, it’s accurate. We all agree because we also really love to talk about it. We share horror stories in a sarcastically carefree tone and quickly qualify it with “but oh, that happens every day” or “but I’m just a teacher, so…” This happened constantly today. All these teachers are so intelligent, clearly dedicated to what they’re doing, very competent people– but so much of teacher-speak is weeding through heart-wrenching anecdotes that are essentially drawn-out, guilt-trip-inducing complaints. I’m tired of people complaining.

There were plenty of great things today, but it’s easier and more interesting to write the less pleasant details. Apologies for the tangential nature of this post.

One Response

  1. Uniquely burdened. So, so true.

    Thing 1: in my experience, no one DOES understand what it means to be a teacher unless they’ve taught. I feel so weirdly separated from non-teachers in my life because they, like me just a short year ago, see teaching with a completely different lens.
    Thing 2: WHY can’t teachers stop complaining?!?
    To each other, no less? You’d think since we “get it” it’d become old news to reiterate, in that head-shaking, incredulous voice, how hard our lives are or whose expectations of us are ridiculous. But it’s CONSTANT. I’m at a training this week,too, and I half wanted to tape record the conversation at my table because it seemed just too thick to not be so e kind of teacher-parody.

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