Caroline in the Delta

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Jan 25 2013

Self vs AnyHuman

I’ve been mean lately. I come to school and my homeroom asks, “Are you going to be mean today?” and I say, “Raise your hand.” Been really perfecting the totally condescending teacher stare, been really hammering expectations, been really tolerating zero mess.

Balancing the desperation of purposeful expectations with allowing people to be human is really hard. I feel like I know what my students are capable of because I understand the logic of learning, but I so often overlook the emotional investment, the core of a strong relationship to trust that you are actually trying to help them. And over everything else is fostering and feeding and growing the strength and courage in another individual to believe that it is possible and that it is worth working for and that failure will only bring more success.

And after all that I wonder why I don’t take my own advice, don’t gulp my own medicine. I’m walking a tightrope, always, between feeling committed and like it’s worth the risk to absolutely devote myself to this school district, to take everything too seriously (and personally), OR keeping one foot in the “real world” far and away in some hypothetical coastal town. Maintaining a resume, keeping contacts, pushing leadership opportunities that are more “standard” and closer to what I’m used to. From places and organizations that already have strong leadership, that will actually tell me what to do and hold me accountable.

Truth is, with all this grad school stuff, I wonder if I even want to be held accountable again. It’s kind of great feeling like I’m usually my own boss, being able to choose when I uphold commitments and when I don’t, to always have the excuse that “everything’s a mess” or “no one told me the deadline” or “I didn’t check my email soon enough” when I don’t do what I know I was supposed to do.

I’m ridiculous, I know it. Grad school will/would fill the void of accountability. I just. When I was in college, and through the jobs I held there and before I got there, I was managed incredibly well. I knew what I was doing wrong and right. I knew how to get better. I knew where I could move forward and the consequences of stepping back. Here, though, freedom is limiting. I feel paralyzed because as much as I’m a self-starter, I’m not. As much as TFA could develop me further, it can’t. As much as I’m working hard to be part of my community, to learn and grow and connect, I am still a perpetual alien. I believe different things. I try too hard and create inconveniences and don’t yet have the confidence to back up the core of my own human. With my students I might be starting to. But with my peers, my faculty, the people I am working with, I feel pushy and liberal and irritating.

I guess it might be to the point where I’ve been here, I am vaguely expecting relationships with my surroundings, and I don’t have them.

So the obvious answer, then, is Well Caroline, are you actually trying to make the relationships happen? But the knee jerk response is Why does everything in my life feel calculated, purposeful, intentional, and like work? The relentless pursuit TFA so graciously bestowed upon me has become something of a thorn.

It’s an accident that these posts have fallen toward a negative slant. It’s because this is January a potential change is impending.

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