Caroline in the Delta

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Feb 23 2012


I almost cried during recess. My panel of four female student judges were in my room for talent show auditions. Our first time slot didn’t show because he was in In School Suspension (he called me while I was driving to the airport after school to see if he can still audition, — adorable — but that’s another story).

I sat, hurried, flustered, hoping recess would still be worthwhile. Three of my homeroom girls came in, audition #2. I prepped them, I’m going to record you, but don’t get nervous, I won’t show anyone. Are you dancing, singing…? They were singing. A capella. Two other girls have already done this, so I got my phone-as-video-camera ready and told them they had five minutes.

Little, if any, other events in my classroom have grounded me in humility as much as this event. My girls are eleven, going on twelve. They sing in church and once a week for 10 minutes (if they’re not in band) in music class. I don’t know how much training they have in performance, how often they practice together without being old enough to drive. I get so caught in teaching, so caught in expectations, caught in pressing them into little boxes, one for each child, always with four perfect corners they need to fit, the perfect shape I have in my head–

But these girls, these girls! In a three minute cover of the Nicki Minaj & Rihanna song “Fly”, I only held back tears because I felt that would be too ridiculous. Seeing two girls belt out the chorus, the third rapping, all these positive feminist words that I did not expect, not even a little bit– it was enough. It was throwing me back in my place.

The biggest dominating emotion was I do not deserve this. I do not deserve to observe this straight up talent, this incredible complex world that is tiny Dumas, Arkansas. But now thinking of it, it’s not that. It’s not that I don’t deserve this, it’s that they don’t deserve this. C’mon repeated epiphany, but this town, this school, these students are too insanely full of skill and talent and drive and passion and God-given beauty to not get somewhere. To not be noticed. To not do whatever they want to do and do it well enough to be recognized and put on a pedestal for being amazing.

I needed that, and I need it recorded here to come back to, to remember. A blog entry doesn’t do anything justice, but it’s something.

Here’s to Sappy McSapperson, but the lyrics that got me follow:

Everybody wanna try to box me in
Suffocating every time it locks me in
Paint they own pictures, then they crop me in
But I will remain where the top begins

‘Cause I am not a word, I am not a line
I am not a girl that can ever be defined
I am not fly, I am levitation
I represent an entire generation

I came to win, to fight, to conquer, to thrive
I came to win, to survive, to prosper, to rise
To fly, to fly

6 Responses

  1. J.

    Caroline, your posts are marvelous. When you are able, please provide an update on Brax.

    • Thanks for the interest! Let’s see how Brax is today, and maybe I’ll give an update tonight. :)

    • ALSO… could be a long shot, but… does this “J.” have anything to do with the “J.” on the note from the flowers I got on Valentine’s Day? Still tryna solve that mystery. 0_o

      • J.

        Sorry, no connection. Hope you find out though!

  2. Angie

    Wow. This is amazing. I am an incoming 2012 Mississippi delta corps member & I love reading posts from current corps members in the delta, whether they write about how difficult it might be or how inspiring their students are. Thank you for sharing this moment you had with your students.

    • Congrats, Angie! Proud of you for joining the mission in this place… we’ve got a good thing going on here. Get ready for– well, everything you can’t get ready for! Hah!

      I’m wrapping up my second year, but there’s a chance I’ll be around next year to welcome you in. :)

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