Caroline in the Delta

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Jan 31 2012

Less pressure, less fear.

Last night I finally went out to dinner with mah girl Miss H, after a much-too-long haitus. Despite teaching at the same school, we answer to different administrators, have separate secretaries, and see each other maybe once a week, for about three seconds.

Our dinner turned into a two-hours gab fest, primarily focusing on school vents, school hopes, and next year. Talking to her, I started to feel reignited for my babes. My kids, my administration, my potential, their potential, things I want to see happen. Things I know can happen to help these kids get on paths toward higher goals and higher achievements in life. Seriously. If I stay next year, I will be some students’ third TFA teacher since third grade. I wonder if that has a bearing on them?

My tendency is to be extremely happy while at school, and at school functions and meetings. Typically. It’s the before-school-anxiety, the 10-pm-grading-frustration, the time spent in “real” cities showing me what other directions my life could go in, that tear me away from the district. The most prominent of those is the mornings. I have to moderate my coffee, because if I drink too much or too quick before school my heart races without cease. I watch what time I wake up, because if it’s too early I get visibly angry at myself, but if it’s too late I feel like I’m incredibly ill-prepared for school. It’s the morning, when everything is planning and potential, and what-can-you-get-done-just-before-the-deadline.

I realized today, or maybe yesterday, I think as a result of my conversation at the Mexican restaurant, that one of the most amazing opportunities for next year is pressure subsiding. I’ll still be working at a failing school, still be held to state tests and sometimes ridiculous procedural expectations, still be feeling like 120 tiny futures are at least partially resting in my hands to be lifted up, but I think a massive pressure will disappear as I become an alumni.

It may be the indoctrination of the dire need to be transformational, or the constant success stories and out of this world achievements, or always standing on the first step of a massive, massive staircase of growth… but something about TFA paralyzes me. Or makes me feel like no matter what I do, it will never be enough. Yesterday, though, I think I truly realized that that’s not the real world. That I can be as effective as I am and still let myself be happy. That I can know I am working and still not perfect, that I can have whatever scores I have and still try, that if I stay here and am not the best teacher, or getting awards, or being featured for whatever it is TFA features people for, that does not deem me entirely ineffective. That does not make me a failure.

I can stay here, and live a quiet life in a small town, and get some high and some low scores, and have some strong and some weak conversations, and still be a worthwhile person. And still be doing a worthwhile thing.

3 Responses

  1. els

    So I just read those last 2 paragraphs out loud to my roommate, and there might have been some “AMEN!”-ing going on. Well said, my friend.

    • I can’t decide if it’s nice to accept that, or just another piece of evidence for being a failure (hah!)

      WORK LIFE BALANCE

      WE DESERVE TO BE HAPPY!!

  2. Thank you for coming to the Delta. Your willingness to give of your time and knowledge to MS children is not going unnoticed! Keep on teaching!

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