updates for 10.28.2011
when i first made my decision not to return to the classroom for year 2, i felt the need to defend myself; although i decided to leave for a variety of reasons, many of which sprang from the deep depression within which i found myself for most of last year, i was not doing so because i no longer cared about the mission of teach for america. quite the contrary. the sentence i found myself repeating most whenever i defended myself was "i'm not leaving to sell makeup or something." i certainly could have communicated more eloquently and effectively, but the simple meaning was, "hey, i'm still IN this thing. just not in the same way." i'll be honest: i don't regret my decision to leave the corps, but that doesn't mean i don't miss my kids viscerally. i'll have dreams about them fairly frequently -- most set in my old classroom -- and i wake up feeling like i punched myself in the heart. i mean no offense or insensitivity whatsoever by this analogy, but i sometimes think of this situation as an open adoption of sorts. i gave my students up to someone else, but i still love them like hell, and am so grateful that i can still be a part of their lives. i've talked to several of them on the phone since moving back to texas, and will SEE THEIR BEAUTIFUL FACES exactly one week from tomorrow. (i will also see their beautiful faces during their first week back to school in january. i've booked these flights in such a way that i KNOW i'll get to visit school.) of course it's not the same as being with them every day, striving to instill within them a love of learning, but it's the best that i can afford to give them, and i wouldn't give them any less. i feel this way particularly because, so far in their young academic lives, most of their teachers have left after teaching them and never shown up again. i refuse to be another well-meaning adult whose presence is short-lived, whose influence is truncated. as far as my graduate studies are concerned, i am in love. (it's tough love some of the time, but what transformational love isn't?) nine weeks into my first semester, i have already learned so much, and have relished the opportunity to apply empirical findings and other public administration or economic theories to the reality i lived last year -- to that which corps members, and all teachers working to close the achievement gap, live every day. i find myself wanting to learn, to research, more and more; in fact, i am leaning heavily towards pursuing a doctoral program in sociology, public policy, or an integrated version of the two as my next step, once i have completed my master's degree. there is not a doubt in my mind that this movement needs to be approached from as many purposeful, evidence-based angles as possible; the quest for educational equity requires teachers AND scholars, administrators AND lawyers, lobbyists AND parents, and the list goes on. a part of me will always wish i had been better equipped to continue growing as a teacher; maybe one day i will become one again, whether at the university level or otherwise. (in fact, i purchased English and Spanish versions of a book by the author of Esperanza Rising, and started looking for pre-made vocabulary lists online so that the student to whom i want to give the book will be able to access and enjoy it.) however, for now, i am happy, motivated, determined, and INSPIRED. may we all continue to be so as we work towards the vision of One Day.
Last Saturday was the TFA Detroit Summit, which concluded our First Eight Weeks (this is both a unit of time and our first big PD period where we're being monitored for growth). It was good to see everyone from the corps, since I mostly just see the few TFA teachers at my school and the science cohort members. Someday I'll blog about why I think the TFA PD schedule needs to change (short version: why not have a daylong session once a month instead of sessions several times a week? It's more difficult to plan and execute, but it would save me several hours of commuting each week. If we need to get this info right away, why not a webinar or conference call?). At the Summit, there were several really interesting PD sessions and some very engaging speakers (including the awesome Michigan Teacher of the Year!). However, one speaker said something which really hit a discordant tone with me, and I think it's a common misconception about TFA. This speaker, during a very awesome talk, mentioned several times that when you're not getting the support you need in your personal life, that should be a sign that you need to be alone so you can power through and do the work you need to do. She was speaking in a larger context about teachers who don't receive the physical, social, and psychological support they need from their communities (which is a HUGE problem, although thankfully I am in an amazing school that provides very well in all of these areas). But here's the problem: Teaching is no time to be alone. On the simplest level, teaching is time consuming. As I mentioned in a previous blog post, I basically have a 40 hours a week job, plus several hours of prep, plus several hours of mandatory professional development (not TFA-stuff!), plus many hours of grading. I am lucky enough to have people in my life (THANK YOU) who will do things like help me enter grades while I'm visiting, send me care packages when I don't have time to go to the store, and even school staff members who come in to help me clean my room after school. The simple need for more hands on deck is occasionally overwhelming. Don't even get me started on the emotional support needed when kids make hurtful comments about you or literally destroy a lab you spent hours devising. Let's just say that sometimes you need a very literal shoulder to cry on. Interestingly, in my very unscientific study of Detroit corps members, an astonishing number are married, engaged, or in serious relationships. Despite TFA's reputation as being for young, single, recent college graduates, we have many corps members who are in their 30s or later, married, with children. In fact, I was often asked during Induction and Institute if I was married - it was just one of the polite 'getting to know you' questions. These corps members seem to struggle just an ounce less, be a gram more centered. The sheer proximity of having someone you talk to every night is an amazingly effective way to maintain perspective. I know it's not Thanksgiving yet, but I just want to thank all of you that are being those supports for me - the people who I call when I'm having a panic attack about how I'll never get everything done, the people who understand when I don't return their calls for two weeks, the people who follow this blog even though I've been totally delinquent in keeping up with theirs. For those corps members who are struggling the hardest, please, find yourself someone who can take care of you when you can't do it yourself. There are such people and they are probably in your life already. For those of you considering joining the corps, think about who your person (or people) will be and talk with them about your decision to join. Know ahead of time that if it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a whole civilization to educate them.
Gone By Kenayah Gone too soon Now where’s my full moon? You died from a serious disease My pain, I need some comfort to ease We spent 3 days together Oh man, I wish it last forever People dying I don’t care, nope I won’t be going to be crying When you left for the light That day I learned to treat people right. Now when someone else is dying You can ease my hurt and crying I learned to love and respect And that I will never forget. My Teacher By Nayeli My teacher is nice, She teaches students new lessons. Gives treats to all students who do their work. Whenever there is a problem she’s always there for you to help you. My teacher is awesome in different ways… That teacher I’m talking about is Ms. Bloom, who tells students never give up on your dreams, have faith on what’s going to happen.
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