Caroline in the Delta

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Aug 12 2011


When the casket rolled down the aisle, careening between the Bobcat purple seats of our high school auditorium, for a moment I thought I might cry. I thought about how awkward I’d feel, or if I’d have to walk in the opposite direction through the same path, despite the overwhelming laughter pouring through the rest of the faculty and administration of Dumas Public Schools.

The following 20 minutes, though, floored me with the creativity, intelligence, humor and passion in my district’s leadership and ideas. For a part of our district-wide professional development, teachers and administration paired up to present sections of a book about differentiated instruction. Yesterday we witnessed a literal funeral, Ecclesiastes and “Swing Lo Sweet Chariot” included, for outdated instructional practices. Things like “using your prep as free time”, “worksheets”, and “writing spelling words five times” got crumpled up and thrown into the casket, complete with wailing women and somber men. It was ridiculous, and incredible.

My faith for the upcoming year soared. I was laughing and entertained, but way beyond that I was so impressed by all these people it’s sometimes so easy to question the motives of. Do they care? Of course they care. Do they “get it”? Do they align with all the eggshell-type philosophies of Teach For America? Maybe not every specific detail, but yes, my administrators truly understand the impact of what they do, and want the best for the kids in our schools.

So in the Caroline-motivated-for-year-two-of-school, that’s a big thick black line saying YES. YES I AM MOTIVATED.

The reading teacher from last year moved, and found a new job in July. Enter Reading Teacher 2.0. She’s a few years older than me, taught babies (k-1) for two and a half years, and lives in Dumas. She just had a baby boy and is married to a minister. She’s from Texas. All I heard about her before my great return from California was that she’s very soft spoken.

Meeting her, I found the same. Also, though, she is incredibly dedicated to the success of our students. Also, she is willing to collaborate and co-plan every lesson plan, every unit, every exam. She is willing to use all the TFA exams and resources I get. She is willing to do the parts of the ELA pilot I understand. She wants to actually enforce silent reading. She wants to understand her SLEs and how to teach them. She and I talk for at least an hour daily about planning, curriculum, administration, what’s going on at school.

I am in heaven. Heaven, do you understand me?!

This is a dream come true. We are having a planning meeting at 9am tomorrow. I am by no means an excellent teacher, not even close. But having the opportunity to be the one to teach the ropes, to explain the difference between LTF and AIMS, close reading and composition lessons, vertical teams and how bus duty works… I had completely forgotten how much I love all this initiation stuff, explaining it, knowing it, being there for someone. It has completely revitalized me.

Okay, no joke, it gets better.

After lunch, I went to my school for our curriculum planning hours. I arrived and peeked into the other sixth grade rooms, found no one. Then found everyone is in Math Teacher’s room. They are having a grade-level meeting, basically. A meeting! With all the sixth grade teachers! For the first time that I can remember, that’s longer than 10 minutes at least. I am beside myself. We sit and discuss and crank out four solutions to last year’s problems in about an hour. My team is effective and efficient and we don’t waste time in meetings. We get to the point and problem solve. Not just that, but earlier I mentioned to a teacher my interest in being the grade-level chair for the leadership team etc etc, and at this meeting she said “You writing this down, Caroline? You’re going to need to present it to Principal.”

WHAT? YES. Some people might scoff at the added responsibility, weight, time, but being responsible for something gives me butterflies. Attending meetings, learning about what’s going on in other grades, with administration, or anything else, makes my cheeks glow. These are the things I did, and loved, in college, and had forgotten about. Meetings, orientation, ideas, collaboration. I’m dying of glee.

Last, because I recognize this is getting incredibly long, was tonight. Tonight, tonight. My glorious first years! I already feel like a parent. Tonight was ICE group (investment, community, execution group) week 0. Ben and I facilitated our first meeting with the 16 first year corps members up in Pine Bluff. We met in a first grade teacher’s classroom at the Lighthouse Academy which is opening for the first time there this year. I’ve already friended most of them on facebook, and have been chatting with two. But today it was flesh and blood, call and response, teach and be taught!

AND TEACHING ADULTS, DEAR LORD! I am teaching teachers! How is this possible! While presenting I just kept thinking,┬ásporadically, “hmm. I just modeled an appropriate attention-getting symbol…” and such TFA-teachery things. The group started professionally, thoughtfully, and optimistically. Something Ben and I were so grateful for. I love leading leaders.

I know, I am well aware, that I have to take all this glorious positive stuff and harness it. I know it will not last forever. But I also feel these are not fleeting things. My administration, my fellow sixth grade teachers, my ICEgroup, I have them for a while. I will appreciate them always. I am so pumped.

Last, for real this time, I finally started using my second facebook account. It’s one in which I will friend students. If I ever need a pick-me-up, I will just sign on there from now on. My students are constantly chatting with me, liking my photos, talking about seventh grade and how much they miss sixth, and making me remember that these are people. My students are not sad statistics on a human rights poster, they are real people with real lives, and I have a permanent mark in the way they are raised to be citizens. I’m a government employee! I work for the betterment of our nation!


5 Responses

  1. sarah

    love, love, love. my favorite post on your blog.

  2. J.P.

    I can feel your excitement and KNOW that you are making an impact on the lives of these kids. You certainly made one on mine!

    • JP! You have no idea how much that means to me!! <3

  3. I wish I could be in Dumas and share all of these things with you over a porch and something cooked in a home. THIS IS BEAUTIFUL!!! I’M SO HAPPY!

    • OMG JUST COME VISIT ALREADY!!! What are you doing November 3-6? I have two days off.

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