Caroline in the Delta

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Aug 22 2011

The person responsible for your experience is you.

I am bursting, absolutely bursting, with all the things I want to share via blog and screaming and writing thousands of letters. However, now that I am smothered in the bliss of a job that consumes my entire life, the only way I can remotely attempt to do that is, apparently, at 12:41 on a Sunday night. Or Monday morning, depending on how pessimistic you are.

My back is aching, because I’ve been sitting at this same table the vast majority of the day. I woke up at 8am of my own accord, despite a comforting alarm set for nine, and for the first time in a while got out of bed without savoring an extra ten minutes under my glorious down comforter. I put on shoes and went for a four mile run, accidentally tromping through huge mud puddles in the cotton field behind Delta Memorial Hospital (not as large and glamorous as the name implies). It was an excellent run, and I shocked myself by running slightly less than 10 minute miles. Those mud puddles had me thinking I’d be running muuuch slower than usual.

Then a shower, egg sandwich, and this table. Roughly 13 hours ago.

I have finally started working, and I mean really working. And working with a driving force, with a purpose, with some end in mind that I actually understand. I am not sinking, oooooh no, not like last year. No, I am building a boat because I have myself and about 120 new kids that I need to navigate over these ridiculous waters to that other, huge, huge piece of land that is incredibly more beneficial, happy, and opportunistic than this tiny island of Southeast Arkansas we are currently stranded on. RIGHT? Do  you remember my water metaphors?!

I am flipping out, basically. Emotionally, my brain is in overdrive. Now that I have some slight clarity of mind (again, just compared to last year), I intensely intensely feel what I am fighting for and against every single day. I am learning the major players and scoping my teammates. What are their strengths? How do I fit in?

In the past two weeks I’ve become the chair of the sixth grade, brought a non-TFA teacher (my glorious wonderful fantastic Ms. New Reading Teacher) to ProSat (no kidding, she was all about it), learned how to plan reading with the new ELA pilot (broadening my skill base!), and friended about half of my students on facebook.

I get daily comments from my kids about language being their favorite class. It makes me nervous. I don’t want to be the favorite class. I don’t want to be the favorite teacher. I want to be the inspiration that gets these kids to learn. I hope I can be meaner this week, or something.

Yesterday, at ProSat, we saw a local marching band and heard two seniors speak. Both of their ACT scores were higher than mine. They are able to go to any university then want to. They floored me with their presentations. My favorite, roughly recalled, included an anecdote about the student standing before us (clean cut, button down and tie, articulate, scored the 33) and one of his childhood friends, who is currently in prison for stealing a car:

The only difference between him and I, is I have the faith. I believe that my education is the most important thing for my personal happiness later in life. I believe that college is where I have to go. But he is stuck in a trap, like so many of our friends. He only cares about instant gratification.

that is loosely, loosely recalled, but those words. Immediately I realized I want to teach my students long-term gratification. Long-term hard work. Hopefully I stand as an embodied example of that. A year, an entire year of sacrificed sanity and pain and feeling broken all the time because I knew the instant gratification of quitting is not worth losing the long term benefit of learning how to teach well, the benefit of students achieving. (Fingers crossed.) And right now, you could say, I’m avoiding instant gratification of sleep for the prolonged enjoyment of being able to recount my experience, to remember what I felt after just for days of teaching these kids, just two weeks of knowing Ms. New Reading Teacher and Mr. New Vice Principal, just one year of being a teacher.

My favorite part of ProSat was the explanation of the CM – PD relationship. Our PD is now our “manager”, whatever, same role. But it was amazing, and I fully support them doing this, to hear that our PD is not responsible for us being happy. Our PD is not responsible for making sure we don’t hate TFA and hate our lives and hate what we’ve chosen to do. No. We are well beyond that. We were chosen to be TFA CMs because we are self starters, because we solve our own problems, because we are proactive and intelligent and logical. If we don’t think our PD relationship is worthwhile, we must make it worthwhile. If we feel our teaching practices are not working, we must make sure we do everything humanly in our power to make sure our teaching practices start working.

Oh Lord, some days I feel like the most blessed little Arkansas brunette walking on this earth.

2 Responses

  1. I love all the energy you’re starting the year with. It’s funny, though, how you could flip the gratification statement: indulging the instant gratification of releasing one’s thoughts online over the long term gratification of not having a sleep debt. Get a healthy amount of sleep Caroline. :) (That sounds like something a frumpy adult would say).

  2. Cindy

    This:

    “Oh Lord, some days I feel like the most blessed little Arkansas brunette walking on this earth.”

    makes me so happy!

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