Caroline in the Delta

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Aug 08 2011

“Praying’s good, but we need to work, too.”

Days, it’s taken me, days, to realize that this blog post is never going to be organized in my head in a way that will be clear and direct for the reader, and to realize that if I don’t update now all these things floating around will evaporate, disappear.

Yesterday I attended Second Year Orientation, and experienced what it’s like to be somewhat seasoned, to be understood, to not be soothed every 15 seconds, or have my anxiety validated with every sentence, or to ask the first person I see where they teach, where they went to college. Ahhh, no, I am now… A Second Year.

(Side note for any non-TFA reader: TFA corps members are consistently referred to by how many years they’ve been teaching/part of the corps, even if they’re alumni. Thus, I live with a third year, I’m leading first years in ICE, and we have plenty of fifth and sixth years in the Delta.)

With that comes changes. First, I am not riddled with anxiety. I can sleep. In fact, I’m obsessed with the bed that last year’s 6th grade Reading teacher gave me when she moved in with her newly acquired husband. I have to force myself to run, instead of use it as a semi-valid escape to lessen anxiety and procrastinate. I am incredibly behind on my planning, but by now I know that first, I can get the planning done in the time I have and second, that I plan better when I have a concrete plan and resources exactly where I want them, something that will begin tomorrow when I can talk to my literacy coach.

Second, my brain is completely overpowered with the very specific thought of what will I be doing this time this year? Not just my brain, but people around me keep asking. I have friends on both coasts coaxing me to come to their cities, enjoy their nightlife, be social. I have my roots questioning what role I can play in the salvaging and rebuilding of Detroit, via education or otherwise. My heart for education is begging me if I can please take classes again, as a master’s student or at an art or dance or community center (AKA, in a place that is not Dumas, where continuing education only exists as getting your GED via night classes). My extended vacation (Chicago, Detroit, New York, Philly, San Francisco) is reminding me that I love exploring, adventuring, meeting up with contacts I only see once every two years; it is reminding me that I am 24– young enough to travel still free from responsibility, nothing is tying me down yet, take advantage of it. And, of course, I have this beautiful organization I am a part of: Teach For America. Where every time you step in a room you are inspired by stories of CMs turned principals, Boys & Girls Club founders, chamber of commerce directors, summer camp creators. There is so much potential in staying here.

Third, well, I’m still teaching. I am still here for the same reason. I can’t quite take that heavy sigh of relief because ohhhh yeah, I am just hardly halfway done. I can’t come close to making those third year plans because this year is bound to be drastically different than my first.

I am trying hard to form this last idea into a comfortable space. This second year, second half, of my commitment. I am trying to make it something I am excited to step into, I am overwhelmed with excitement for, I am planned and ready to take on head first, to be a candidate for awards and recognition and being one of those sensationalized TFA speakers at closing. I can be that person, right? Any of us can. I just have to do it. I just have to have my vision, my big goal, my long term plan and transferable motivation, momentum.

The underlying message, the fact that I’m not sure I have these things… you catching that?

Second Year Orientation was great because of Krystal Cormack. She and her husband are local TFA celebrities, power houses of change in the Delta. I want to remember the things she told us, like

We were chosen because we are the best leaders in the country, and this is our responsibility.

Inspiring, but I hate to say that when she said it I was in a mood of inadequacy. Sometimes as a TFA corps member you feel you’re a walking billboard for your university, that it’s glaring over your head. And let me tell you I love Western Michigan University, I am enamored with my alma mater, but when all around me I hear the very articulate, intelligent, impassioned talk of Georgetown, Harvard, Spelman, my confidence falters. No one’s even judging me, not in the slightest, no snide comments or disgusted glances, but I don’t give myself any credit. I question my ability to impact. I question my values. Not their strength, but what they are, do I even have any? What is my vision for my kids, after all? Do I even have one? Can I at all manage to articulate why I’ve made it this far and what I intend to do for the next year? And, really, how did TFA not see through my seemingly excellent interview, to realize that I maybe don’t house all the potential someone else might. Why on earth did I get selected over thousands and thousands of other applicants to be here, in Dumas, teaching sixth graders? Who let this happen?

It’s unbelievable, sometimes, to be here, accepting this responsibility and this┬áprivilege. Regardless of how or why they decided to hire me, I’m here. I passed the interview process. And I made it through the first year without quitting. Now the goal is to make it through the second year actually showing some kind of significant gains.

Here it is, The Second Year, beginning with tomorrow: the first day of Dumas professional development, 2011-2012 school year. Bring it, Dumas. Imma love every second.

2 Responses

  1. cmurphy389

    As a first year that begins next Tuesday, I respect your position and have every confidence that you will blow them out of the water. You clearly have a passion to teach and I hope I have second years like you around me next week!

  2. You’re wonderful. I love all of the things you love about being a second year corps member, and my body practically vibrated because your second thing resonated so much with me.

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