Caroline in the Delta

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Mar 01 2014

Terrified/Totalled/Trumped

March came! January and February took their days; January cold and dark, six o’clock bringing deep, quiet naps under three comforters; February days braced against the cold, chin to the sun, even a day or two above 60 degrees.

I’m not sure I had any weekends off between Christmas break and the middle of February, the last three weekends being our third ATC PD event, running my first full marathon, and then spending a longer than anticipated weekend snowed into Chicago, cuddling and cooing at three week old Vera and talking to her mama, my best friend from college.

Then last weekend hit, a pit of time I didn’t expect, quiet and serene in Dumas. I didn’t go anywhere except the nearest Walmart in Monticello, and to the Huddle House diner with my favorite Britney. This weekend was slated to be the same but unexpectedly picked me up and put me in Little Rock. Where I tend to be, where my friends are, where I might end up.

My stomach is bubbling, my fingers shake in the mornings. After such a huge physically accomplishment, I haven’t ran a single step since. Instead I take trip after trip to sit at the picnic table in my backyard, pink striped slippers shuffling on the dirt pebble mixture we have instead of grass. I’ve stared at our blue plastic kiddie pool for probably hours at this point, watching the rain water fall, then sit, then freeze, then thaw again. I’ve been noticing the stars on clear nights and the haze in the mornings.

My classroom has been running itself. After assigning a fairly demanding rubric-oriented Black History Month project my students have been tearing through google drive, creating documents and presentations and letters for their penpals. They’ve earned increasing responsibility and trust, taking ownership over getting the laptops, helping one another with grammar and meeting expectations, and taking ownership over our incredibly outdated mobile glad. These two weeks I’ve been pretty glad I’m the only teacher who consistently uses it; there’s never competition for time.

My social life has dwindled under the timesuck of 14 interviews for our four ATC summer positions.  I worked 28 documented hours in the past two weeks on top of Dumas work and grad school. The running end has significantly helped make that possible, but has simultaneously drained seemingly all energy I have for spare moments. Between interviews I found myself dazing, staring at the balls of cotton stuck in a red tin on a wooden shelf I have hung on the wall opposite my dining room table. I’d twist my grandmother’s engagement ring around and around, then take it off and place it carefully centered on the gray top of my Diet Coke bottle. Ask about strengths and weaknesses, ask about future potential in Arkansas.

I love my jobs completely, both of them. Going to school, even when Q’s eyes glaze and he slumps, even when Kay puts the devilish cartoony sly grin on, even when K comes in smelling of urine, I love teaching. I love teaching. The size to which my chest expands when I look out at their young faces, all facing me, all in anticipation, all contemplating their lives and their places and the decisions they have made or are yet to make… every day it overwhelms me. Every day I am so in love.

And ATC, I can’t even begin. All of the applicants so excited about a program not in competition with, but as a complement to, Teach For America. Everyone so excited about the possibility of a program that pushes teacher retention beyond the two year TFA expectation. The passion in their voices, the strength of their own classroom experiences, the powerful potential they have as a united team… again it’s overwhelming. To think that I’m capable or deserving to build a team like this, to be responsible for anyone’s development– I don’t feel qualified but I also feel there’s no other direction to go in.

My brain and my heart. This has not been a hard week, this has not been exhausting. I know what those feel like and this is not it. And yet I feel collapsed. I feel crushed and I feel insecure and I feel weak. My aunt called recently to see if I was okay, to check and see what my life is, what my days are. At the end she said in an attempt to show concern but what came out as flippant: “and I know you hide your emotions, so–” quickly pushing into the next sentence.

I don’t think I actively hide them. I think I often don’t see them there, so all encompassing and so pervasive in everything I’m doing that I just can’t seem to pin them down. And then when I do, when I catch myself sobbing to a little boy showing courage or glazing over while I star into a startlingly clear kiddie pool of water, I’m so embarrassed. I’m so full of a feeling of internal I told you so, of you should’ve known better, that it seems impossible to acknowledge that beyond the outpouring of love I feel crumbled. I feel neglected and silly and frail.

The solution is calm, is social plans and momentum and trust. The solution is running this 10k with Hannah even though I haven’t ran in three weeks and my lungs feel like forest fires. It’s getting a hotel with Rachel and sleeping in a king bed, it’s getting breakfast and talking for two hours about the state of the world. The solution is moving forward even when you want to stop. It’s continuing to work when you feel spent, it’s feigning confidence when insecurity is planning a coup. It’s ignoring terrified and talking love. Most of all it’s watching Alex Boye and Lexi Walker as close to 500 times as possible and learning from them and Elsa to just let it go.

 

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