Caroline in the Delta

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Feb 04 2013

Leaping Off the High Horse

Life! Balance! Utter aggravation!

I haven’t been solidly upset with myself in a while, which might be a bad sign. I’ve been told, relatively often (especially since joining TFA), that I have a pretty good handle on being reflective. Self-awareness, self-criticism, self-analysis, self-obsessed, maybe. I try to stay humble, but a girl’s got to acknowledge when something is going at least okay. I’d say my self-reflection is okay.

Until today.

Again, this outsider-TFA-young-and-inexperienced shield is blinding, totally and absolutely blinding me. Today I let some invisible giant’s hand press gently on my collar bone, slowing this galloping high horse (sprinting, really, the past few months)… then giving me the chance: will I leap? jump? slide? or fall off this high horse I’ve been riding?

Who am I? Who am I to assume anything, to take responsibility or be angry at anything that is not personally me? This blog, the idea of it, rips me apart because I never feel justified. I never feel my thoughts articulate enough or fair enough or candid enough to mean anything. Never sure if I can back myself up if I get a comment (verbal or web-based) that criticizes whatever I felt brave enough to post. For a while I boosted myself up in my position at school, as an educator. I saw holes and thought I addressed them. I pushed forward and kept my resolve and my spine and my faith that I was doing the right thing, or at least making every effort to.

Maybe I’ve just done that long enough, and now I have to sit and wait. But I can’t take “credit” or responsibility or — I can’t take anything. I just have to wait and see.

This probably doesn’t make any sense. If you’ve followed my blog you know leadership team is a big reason why I am so invested, in love with, proud of, and frustrated with my school. Today our superintendent sat in and the meeting was run differently than usual, for the better. I took a back, far back, seat and watched things roll, like a kid on a road trip. Sedate and zoned out but still present, ready to lash out at a potential brother poking my side.

My role in leadership team has changed, which I see as a good thing. I do wonder, though, if with “less” self-administered responsibility I’ll be more or less invested in the school. If the committee begins to show more leadership, my investment and happiness will obviously jump. If I feel less of a drive or reason or obligation to attempt to make any impact on anything, I’ll be plagued with a sense of failure, isolation, needing to leave.

On my agenda today, I wrote oh so tiny, “BACK ON AN ISLAND…” because of the well-known concept of every teacher feeling isolated, feeling infringed on when someone else steps in the classroom for any reason. I feel like I’m on an island at school. I’ve talked less with my team, I’ve avoided more conflict, I’ve planned less and held myself accountable to less. I’m not TFA anymore; I don’t get observed anymore; I don’t collaborate as much; I worry less; I’m more protective of my room and my procedures and my ideas; I am a “veteran” more so than at least a handful of teachers at my school.

I don’t know how I feel about any of this, only that I feel I’ve lost not just my own footing, but the ground doesn’t feel so safe, either. My charge-forward-ignore-all-periphery-at-war-with-the-achievement-gap mentality has been thrown… or I’ve let it take off running with the horse I leapt from.

I’m telling you, this blog is getting worse and worse. This isn’t musings, not even word vomit, it’s something a lot more slimey, like the goo from middle school science that defied the conventions of solid or liquid, with properties of both. That’s my words. Filling in every available space when spread out, but balling up (trying to be tough) when you pick them up.

As I sat in leadership team an hour ago, I looped the question in tiny cursive, “Do I want to learn the hoops to jump through?”

Today we got an email that the Walton Grant has officially gone through. Four of us TFA vets are invited to free tuition grad school through Arkansas Tech for school leadership (my choice would be administration). The price tag is cut to only fees and a two year commitment to any education occupation in Arkansas after the program. It would be one more promised year in Dumas, and two more anywhere else in the state. Do I want to do this? Do I really want to commit to double my experience in this state, in this field? And this is with the Summer Principals Academy still hazy in the background, with no decision or interview for at minimum six more weeks.

…but what else am I going to do?

A little part of me is just pitying myself, is hiding, maybe a little afraid. I think the bigger, more sensible, more obvious part of myself knows I’m ready to stay here, ready to risk it, ready to keep dragging my feet through this winter mud until the fields dry out, until the cotton is back, until I have another degree and more insight into why my kids can’t, sighingly literally can’t, live a life of the same opportunity I have. Until I can play just the tiniest part in giving it to them.

I know it’s February. My heart’s just a little bit happier that it’s 5:38 and a little past dusk… Glad that the 5:00 black of winter is already in the past, but still half-dreading the three and a half months until summer. But part of me is excited for those months, too. Part of me knows I can do this, of course I can, I just– I can’t articulate what I feel like I’m missing, but it’s something. & I think I’m going to hang out on the ground til I can find it. I’ll get back on the horse when these bruises have cleared up.

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