Caroline in the Delta

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Apr 08 2012

Why I’m staying.


A week or two ago, my vice principal knocked on my door in the middle of fourth period. I set my kids to independent work and scooted out the door for an impromptu hallway meeting. He stood with our director of special ed, who was holding a thick packet of paperwork. “This won’t take long,” VP said, “we just need you to sign some documents to get Brax sent to ALE.”

My stomach dropped immediately. Two days prior, the sixth grade team met. Brax was one topic we touched on, and all five of us agreed that we do not support moving him to ALE. Though he was incredibly difficult to manage for three of us in February, we all noticed a significant change in March.

“Mr. VP, thank you for doing all of this, but before I sign anything I want to tell you the sixth grade met, and none of us support moving him.” He looked mildly shocked. “He’s had a significant change in behavior. He’s had no write ups in the entire month of March; he got to go to his first behavior activity last Friday. He just wrote the best essay on a TLI he ever has for me, and Ms. Math says he’s ‘on fire’ every day in there, participating and answering questions correctly.”

“Really.” He looked from me to Mr. Special Ed. “Well, you all agree you want to keep him in class?” “Yes.” “Well then, I guess we all don’t have to be meeting then. Give me a minute.” He hustled down the hall to the last room, where Brax was in science. He pulled him out, and walked him down to our mini-meeting.

“Brax. I want you to understand something. You see all of us here? We were about to sign your papers to send you to ALE. Ms. L here just saved you. She said you’ve been doing better in your classes. She said you been acting right. Is that true?”

Brax is both smaller and bigger than he was three months ago. Slimmer, because he hasn’t been eating as much, something his aunt and I have talked about. Taller, though, more gaunt, darker around the eyes. “Yes sir.”

“This is how you should have been acting all along, Brax. You’re smart. You keep this up until the end of the year, alright? And I think you need to tell Ms. L something.”

Brax eyed the floor near my toes, his hands between the small of his back and the cinderblock wall of the hallway. “Thank you, Ms. L.”

Then we all went back to our day.


At a TFA party, leaning on a car with the tall K. There are two K’s in Pine Bluff, both phenomenal first year teachers that I got to know as an ICE leader first semester. They try to attack me with compliments but seem to fail to notice how easy it is to admire them from Dumas. (Aside: All these first years– I am so so impressed constantly by everyone around me. It’s a love/hate, with the first/second year divide in TFA. There’s a huge barrier between us sometimes, despite awesome first years and failing seconds years… As an ICE leader I was constantly thinking about how amazing these people are going to be as teachers, and how insane it is that I can train them in anything, them being so capable and intelligent and all around fantastic. Sigh.)

Talking with K, she brings up the blog, says all kinds of crazy things that have me feeling like a worthwhile human, you should get it published, it’s so true about being here…

But the greatest was, Caroline, it’s so great because reading it you’re like ‘What’s she going to choose? Her heart or her head? And you just have to wait until her heart and her head say the same thing, but you know what she’s going to decide…

When she said it, things clicked. Hearing it from another person, from someone that I don’t have a concrete day to day relationship with, but who knows me so well from reading these posts– it put things in perspective. If she knew what I was going to decide, I knew what I was going to decide.

Everyone knew what I was going to decide.


Ms. Science came up to me in the hall Friday, “Ms. L, I found this poster online, about voice levels. I think we need to use it.” I’m totally interested right off the bat. A grade-wide system? Consistent expectations? Something Ms. Science is pumped about? Yes, yes, and yes.

Similarly, during the meeting in which we talked about Brax, the whole team was full of ideas and suggestions for next year. Me staying would be the first year all five teachers teach the same subject two years in a row in at least four years.

Our students are graduating May 21st, but school officially ends May 25th. That means we have four full teacher work days. Valuable days we can sit together, talk about plans and schedules and expectations for next year. We have a vice principal that is supportive and active and gets things done. We have an awesome secretary who is blessing us for another year. We have so, so much potential as a team. Everyone involved is important, all our combined experience and perspectives. Another teacher can do my job just as well, can do it better, but the position I’m in now does not feel finished. My specific, personal work does not feel done. I feel like I’m on the edge of something great with these teachers, in this school. Not to say we’ll do anything groundbreaking, but I think in one more year we will accomplish more than I have the past two combined.

I’m not ready to leave that.


Other opportunities aren’t there. Not ones I want, not ones that will hook me in. Not ones I can feel committed to, that I can believe in with my entire heart. Not ones that would be worth a cross-country move, worth learning a new school, worth making new friends in a new place with a new apartment and new furniture and another life upheaval. Not now. Not when things are so good here.


Things are so good here.

One Response

  1. hill

    I’ve enjoyed following your blog for the past two years and I’m so excited to see you’re staying! I can’t wait to hear the good things you do next year.

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