Caroline in the Delta

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Nov 20 2011

Bieber kick has returned in full force, via the Christmas album released three weeks ago; the album perhaps obtained by an inappropriate means. I listen to it religiously (ha ha, Christmas album).

Here I sit, tank-top clad upon the over-starched sheets of a full bed in the Travelodge Chicago. Teach For America, thank you. Thank you for investing in me as a human, as a teacher, and as a seemingly valuable asset to your organization. I am continually halted in my opinion of myself as I “earn” or recieve something like this. Like all things, my attendance at the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Annual Convention was a mix of timing, serendipity, and the smallest amount of qualifications.

I’m sure the most qualified teachers don’t need this kind of development, or at least don’t want it. And scheduling, and — well, there were a lot of reasons to not apply. Yet, I have a tiny bit of guilty pride at being allowed to come. Teach For America is willing to chip in whatever amount for a flight, hotel stay, registration, meals…

For any prospective corps members, realize that as rigorous and hellish and hardest-thing-of-your-life-ish as TFA is, there are innumerable wonders tucked into everything. Because of being a corps member, I’ve had opportunities to have (expenses paid) trips to Washington DC, San Francisco, Little Rock, Chicago, and soon Connecticut. Not to say TFA paid for all five (they paid for two), but it is a direct result of my participation in TFA that affording me these opportunities… all four being directly relevant to be being a better teacher.

NCTE and the Life of Caroline– How do they mix?

  • Yesterday’s sessions were a bust. I almost regretted neglecting my children for this logical-nightmare of a conference. Too spread out through the city, too little communication, too unimpressive sessions. Dumb.
  • I got to meet up with one of my great friends from high school for dinner. Turned my weekend around.
  • Notable Session #1: English Leadership Roundtable: I joined this session thinking of a few things, like a) If I stay in education, I’m pretty positive I want to end up in a leadership role, either curriculum or administrative; b) I’m worried about the culture of my grade and school wide teachers; c) I’m the sixth grade chair. Results? Being one of the few people to speak up in the beginning, the entire roundtable discussion managed to revolve around my concern over negative teachers. I got some pointed, excellent advice and some blush-inducing compliments for being a forward thinking Teach For America teacher. Though I disagree, largely, with the huge uncalled for respect we are sometimes given as a corps… it is nice to hear appreciation every once in a blue moon.
  • Notable Resulting Event: After the roundtable, a woman who seemed particularly interested in giving me advice asked all about my school, me, and ended up grabbing my arm saying, “Forget all your plans, you’re not going to the next session, you’re coming with me.” She proceeded to parade me around the entire exhibition space (THIS IS A VERY LARGE SPACE) telling literally every person in her way that I am a TFA corps member that “has no materials down there”, asking for free materials. I loved her intentions, loved them, and bit my tongue when I thought about my personal philosophy to never acquire stuff I don’t need or don’t know what to do with. Not sure how many of these brochures I’ll tote back to the Delta, but this created…
  • Notable Resulting Event #2: She took me to the Scholastic area, where I discussed the new writing program they’re rolling out in March. It’s dominated by six traits, which I don’t use, but I got to speak directly to the author of the program, who is an adorable, kind, light-hearted and excitable woman. Next to that program was one called ID, which is tailored specifically for secondary males and looks awesome. Like very seriously awesome, like I want to go through the workshops myself awesome. While speaking with these reps, I asked about Francie Alexander, the woman whose conversation was my “prize” from a previous entry here, and in response I got, “Well. If you have a connection to Francine that means… that’s like saying ‘Hey, I know the queen of England.’ You basically know the queen.” (!!!) I giggled my way out of that, and again profusely internally thanked the TFA forces that be that I am in this position. Another memorable comment, from the same guy, was when he said something like, “I firmly believe that if you are a good person, good connections will just come to you. It just happens. So if you do a good job, you’ll always be fine.” I totally align with that perspective, and my hopes of ever finding a spouse were dashed when I noticed the thick silver band on his left ring finger. Just kidding.
  • Notable Session #2: Four Colored Girls: There was a session of an entire family of females talking about social justice in education. The lead speaker, the youngest and most spunky, talked about adopting African American oral tradition into classroom practices, and especially in composition. She did an awesome study with her [Michigan State University!] college freshman comp classes that I really want to translate to my sixth graders. I talked to her after and (amazingly) she said she already had intentions to look for a younger population to try it with– we agreed to email and try to meet up soon to get things started! Collaboration! Awesome!
  • Last, I’m really appreciative for the opportunity to get to know my fellow TFA Delta CMs. I loved going to dinner, but loved our firey conversations about education reform more. I finally feel like I have at least a tiny bit of experience to go off of, and can start to formulate semi-valid opinions about the state of the universe.

Phew. I don’t expect many to read this; more of a record to keep track and remember this conference. Life is good. Chicago is beautiful. Can’t wait to see my babes for two days before Thanksgiving break!

ALSO, WEIRD AS WEIRD CAN BE: We only have six months left of school. Holy cow.

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