Caroline in the Delta

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Jun 06 2012


The Delta Institute’s Week Zero started yesterday. Today we were dismissed early to attend the opening for Induction, where James Meredith spoke. An amazing man with a perfect southern hat, it was while he was speaking that I just had to be distracting. Had to pull out my tiny notebook and black pen, had to start writing.

Nothing I wrote is substantial, and some of opening was straight up depressing, but being there– certain things can’t be articulated, just experienced. Imagine an auditorium with a heartbeat. Imagine a cloud of potential hovering in hot, humid, Mississippi air. Imagine hundreds of young people, ready, eager, waiting, guessing their own impact on a place they’ve never seen, people they’ve never met, students they feel so much for.

Yesterday, while I was sitting in a session, a gchat popped up. A very close but rarely talked to college friend asked me, “Do you have any regrets about not going for that job in CT?”

It was startling. I honestly had to stop to even think of what she was talking about. CT? Job? Achievement First? Not that it was ever offered, but it’s jarring to realize that people close to me still see this as an enormous feat. People still see me as some two-year martyr, sacrificing some inarticulate youth for turmoil and discomfort.

No. No, this is so backwards it almost makes me angry. At myself, for not better informing the people around me. At everyone else, for not having as much faith in the community and work as I do. At society, for making teaching (rural, district-school teaching) so much less important than graphic design, or business communications, or administrative work for a multimillionaire who yells at his employees, or charter schools, or anything else I’d be doing.

Why would I ever regret this? Where else could I possibly be? What else could mean anything more, fit any more perfectly, fill up my insides the same way?

Granted, I’m also mad at myself for being naive. For thinking I’m doing something when there is so much to be done, for tricking Dumas into a success story, for taking myself seriously.

None of this was the intention of this post!

MOVES. Induction. A first year (second, now) teacher arrived to do a slam poem slash song slash speech slash work of art that pulled us with the word move. I wanted to run up there with her. To say I’m moved by Brax, when he left my class after the Thesaurus Day. Moved by Dria, who asked for months to do a talent show and finally pulled the entire school, literally, together to get it done. Moved by New Girl, who did so much in so little time, who I feel like I failed because there is no way I challenged her. There’s this thing TFA does, where everything is a cliche, where everything is two-sided, where everything can either be laughed at because you’re terrified it’s impossible or because you defeated it already. I’m caught up in all of that, still.

And again, not the thing I am most excited to write. (Sarah, don’t cry when you read this.) Here is what I intended to write:

First, she locked eyes from ten yards away, bright tank and long hair, “Caroline?!” “K?!” and thus the first member of my Dumas step-family was gripped in a hug, finally before me after countless (okay, the chain is exactly 50 long, I just checked) emails. Here she is, sister for the next year.

Second, I prodded her to walk me to C, standing in food line. C, who I saw before but didn’t say hi to because I just wasn’t sure. Bear hug here, and I’ve got a brother with glasses.

Third, comes Miss Chill M, happy but so grounded. Calm but beaming.

Fourth is MIA until the 10th with finals, little miss E.

After dinner and a run I went back to the quad, peeking for remainders. I was talking with two people when I saw the fifth, on the sidewalk. There was a moment of recognition before the epic happened (y’all can’t get upset by this being my favorite real life introduction). I half-trotted a few steps when J held his arms wide and said something encouraging me to jump. Laughing, laughing, I literally bounded up and was twisted in a mid-air circle.

This is my step-family. These are the people I get to spend the (at least) next year with. I don’t don’t don’t care how silly I sound, because it’s 12:21 and the second day of Institute and I am so. happy.

I want to burn the word regret up into a tiny pile and eat it. This is not regret, this is swimming as fast as I can into the deep end. This is treading water and laughing. This is floating on my back and staring at the clouds.

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