Caroline in the Delta

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Jun 12 2012

And after this?

Oddly, I feel more like a leader now, today, as a CMA, than I have possibly in the past two years. Why do I feel more empowered here than I ever have as a teacher or other TFA leader? I feel supported, like I know what I’m doing.

I wrote this at school yesterday, could not stop myself, scrawling in the middle of a CS session.

I didn’t apply to be a CMA. I didn’t really intend to work Institute this summer. It took me over a week to accept the job after it was offered, and I felt absolutely unqualified.

Though we’ve been preparing for weeks, Monday was the first day of the Delta Institute. I somehow ended up being the sole corps member that has a license that matches the state in which I reside, which means I’m responsible for driving six of us to our school site (an hour south of our temporary home at Delta State) at 5:30am every morning. The drive was calm and amiable, despite my accidentally killing a bird with the massive vehicle I’m driving (…oops)

When we walked into our CS (content specialist) room, it was like magic super-suit time. It felt like a second skin just popped out of my pores and took me over. How did I forget so quickly how much I love this kind of leadership position? It’s like being an orientation leader, RA, and president of a student organization all rolled into one. Really hope I don’t eat my words with this, but I love being a CMA. As if this being my third Institute wasn’t proof enough, I’m just gonna put it out there: I am addicted to Institute. I’ve found a lot of us are– it’s a love/hate thing, and phew, I’m the former.

Lately I’ve been attempting to seriously consider what I’m doing after the 2012-13 year. Not that I haven’t been wondering this for eternity, it seems particularly relevant because I have the opportunity to so closely see many different school positions during Institute, albeit in a strange context. I’ve quickly realized I have incredibly little interest in content. While I loved table facilitating our lesson planning session today, I don’t ever want to lead something like that. At the same time, I’m obsessed with helping the eight CMs in my CMA group. I love asking them probing questions, love watching the wheels grind in their brains as they grapple with key points and text overviews, love listening in while they debate alignment and rigor.

I can’t figure out what I’m suited for. I got a recruitment phone call Monday from a rep for Building Excellent Schools (an organization that awards fellowship programs to individuals who are willing to start new charter schools in urban areas). While the flattery for things like this catches my breath, I don’t want to start a charter school. I have, though, starting thinking about the Summer Principals Academy through Columbia, which does the same thing but for public school leaders.

But is that what I want to do?

Something about starting a school, or randomly taking charge and stealing the reigns, really turns me off. Thinking of student recruitment, budgets, organizing schedules and special ed modifications, playing the political puppet and getting on peoples’ “good side” really isn’t my thing. When I lead I want complete ownership. I don’t want to cave to something I think isn’t ethical for the sake of relationships. And while I embrace who I am, I recognize my personality isn’t appropriate for any job… and I don’t think I’d make a good principal.

Oh, and I have two years of teaching experience. And I’m not sure how much I’m going to want. I love my job, love it, but there’s something about adults and not being closed into an isolated room all day and not unit planning that’s incredibly attractive.

I’m so appreciative of the opportunity I have to experience institute from this perspective, and of the opportunity to grow and be challenged to the huge extent I will be through this job. I recognize that no one wants to read this kind of boring post, so I’ll just leave a list then peace out to update the other blog I’m just beginning to contribute to (that’s a funny joke because it’s actually not a joke at all…)

Excellent Quotes from Day 1, Week 1:

  • A way to a child’s heart is in your sincerity. They’re gonna know you’re real.
  • Win the child, and you win the parent.
  • (About children being sponges at school:) We’re askin’ all of you to come with what we want them to soak up.


5 Responses

  1. Wess


    why am I not at institute again?

  2. nontfateacher

    Two years of teaching is nothing. You need to do more to see what you can really do. I teach at a lol ses school that does not have any TFA CM’s. It’s just as difficult and stressful as you may or may not think. Stop drinking the kool aid and do some research on other school districts. TFA is not the answer to all the worlds problems.

    • You know what, you are absolutely right. TFA is definitely not going to solve many issues prevalent today.

      I wonder if you have some suggestions of specifically what districts and what research I should be doing to better inform myself. What do you think I need to be learning more about? Is this a suggestion meant to help me better define my career choice?

      I’m definitely curious to find out where I’ll be going next, and how I’m going to get there. Technically, next year my school will have no “TFA” teachers. I’ll be an alumni, officially certified, teaching just like everyone else, and already having more years at that school (two) than almost half the staff (we had a HUGE turn over at the end of last year). I’m excited to see what we can do as a school, and I’m not sure if I can qualify my school as an “other” school district.

      I don’t know what I’d really be looking for, though, if I follow your advice. I’ve ton a TON of research on charter schools and know from experience plenty about delta TFA schools, but my only “research” on “other” schools is from conferences I’ve been to around Arkansas.

      Thanks for the input!

  3. Wanda

    I am interested in TFA. I was wondering if you could give me some input on the schools in the Delta region. I live in SE Missouri and was wondering about the differences between here and there. Thanks.

Post a comment