Caroline in the Delta

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Nov 10 2011

Relief in a phone call.

In college, one of the things I had the most pride for and tried to keep quiet about was our honors college. Because I went to a “generic state school”, I was and continue to be pretty hushed when it comes to academic bragging rights. I stay verbally quiet, but I have a lot of respect for WMU’s LHC. Enough that I sincerely cared about the opinions of that administration, did everything I could for the betterment of the college, and truly valued the additional opportunities the college gave me.

I think that’s why I have a vivid memory of the small honors college commencement ceremony they held in our student union. It seemed almost informal, despite efforts to make it otherwise. The soon to be graduates sat in rows near a tiny stage. Alphabetically, we clunked up the hollow steps to the riser, said our name and major, then briefly stated our post-graduation plans. I remember repeating to myself how I could state my cumbersome new title, I’ll be teaching low-income elementary students as a Teach For America Mississippi Delta corps member for the next two years. There was no concise way to put it.

Despite nerves about tripping over my words or new flowered heels, I made it to the podium and said my bit. My newly smaller family sat in the audience with then-boyfriend, and I clunked back down the steps. Despite some pretty extreme awkwardness, I think it was one of my proudest moments of my college education.

It was partly all the work that went into that one piece of paper, all the arguments with professors both honors and not, all the relationships lost and gained within the people in the room. But a huge part of it was that there were so many honors (honors!) students that went up to state their name and the fact that they would be, frankly, unemployed.

It’s easy to forget in this position that the position itself is a gift. That one of every ten employable people are unemployed right now. That not only do we have jobs, but we have jobs that are good jobs with benefits that we, largely, believe in and sometimes even enjoy doing. I’m really glad to be where I am, and I still hold this bubble of pride every time I can say as humbly as I know how that I am a TFA corps member. There’s a part of me that still doesn’t believe it. How did they decide to hire me?

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Aside from that, I will attempt to explain two wonderful things that happened yesterday. The preface is that I was feeling horrifically negative upon my return from Chicago. Not dehibilitatingly negative, not even incredibly anxious, but I had little faith or interest in what I was doing. My plans were pretty awful for the week, and I somehow managed to have five meetings scheduled in my first two days back from Chicago. From 5-8 I was working, sans planning time.

A while ago, I “won” a teachforus contest for my blog post that answered the question, “Why is teaching important?” The prize was an hour long conversation with Francie Alexander, a higher-up at Scholastic. I was less than enthused with the prize, assuming one hour would do little to improve my teaching or my mood, not to mention steal an hour of a probable nap.

This was not an intelligent assumption.

Yesterday Francie called me at our pre-arranged 4CST/5EST time, all business, urgency, and excitement. As we talked I was more at ease, more thrilled, and fabulously grateful that teachforus secured this kind of prize. I selfishly don’t mind that teachforus didn’t explain the merits of such a call, because I had less competition (heh). Francie is amazing, to say the least. This one hour call is not, actually, a one hour call. She made countless references to our future conversations, offered to set me up with two Scholastic resources that I’m assuming would otherwise be unaffordable for me, skeletoned a research paper I’m determined to have my students write, validated my grammar teaching, and even even started to discuss my post-TFA plans. She asked for a resume, class photo, and to let her know the next time I’m in New York so we can meet up.

Are you kidding me?!

I have been on a mentor search for a solid two years, if not more, and I am trying not to get my hopes up that Francie is going to be my girl (okay, woman). I feel our leadership styles and interests are similar, I already respect her gains incredibly, and she’s already offered to talk with me multiple times in the future. It’s overwhelmingly reasssuring to know that I have one more person on my team. Another support, another resource, another friend, another expert voice to help me help my kids.

And things slowly move back up.

(There’s a part two to last night, but it will have to come tomorrow, my first meeting-less day this week.)

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