Down to the Delta

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Apr 08 2011

“Should be quite the experience…”

A couple of weeks ago I drove to Lynchburg to take the Praxis 1.

First of all, I hate Lynchburg. For those of you not familiar with Virginia, Lynchburg is in the southern part of the state. It is home to pretty much two things of note as far as I can tell. One: the Jcrew factory store (cheap cheap cheap) and two: Liberty University. But the thing that is most important to note about Lynchburg is that the roads there are terribly confusing. I was supposed to be at the testing site (a super random, tiny building located in an office building sitting just off the road next to a bunch of gas stations and fast food restaurants) at 8:00 am, so I left at about 6:00 to give myself plenty of time to get there. Per usual in Lynchburg (and really for me in a lot of places), I got lost on the way there. I stopped and asked for directions, and ended up getting there in plenty of time but already frustrated.

So, as I was taking all three parts of the test combined, it was supposed to take about four hours. Fine. I sit down to take the test and the first thing I have to do is click through a really long set of instructions on how to do things like move the cursor (after they defined the word cursor, phew) and click “next.” Needless to say, that was painful. Once I finally get to the questions, I realize that the biggest challenge of this test is going to be two-fold: 1. I have to actually stay awake so that I finish in time and 2. I have to keep myself from zoning out completely so I don’t fail, but I can’t concentrate too much because I happen to be one of those people who gets bored during standardized tests and then occasionally re-engages by justifying to myself why a variety of the answers could be right if you argue it the correct way. Not good. When I finally got to the essay question, I spent a while thinking to myself about whether it would be better to write a really simple, really structured essay so the grader could see that I know how to organize an essay, or whether it would be better to try to stay interested in what I was writing and trust that my essay organization skills would shine through despite a slightly more complex argument. I can’t even remember what I decided to do.

All I know is, two and a half hours later I walked out of that stupid little room thinking to myself how outrageous it is that anyone should even be trying to become a teacher who could not pass that exam. It is really scary. I went out to my car to drive home and realized that as I had gotten lost on the way there, the chances of not getting lots on the way home were slim to none. And I did get lost.

Having finally gotten all my Praxis exams out of the way, I finally started to think about all the other things that I have to do before I drive to institute in June. It is pretty intimidating. As a 21 year old who has never been anything but a full-time student, the real world is looking scary. I don’t know how to buy insurance, I have never done my own taxes, and I have never paid my own rent. So in addition to all the pre-institute work (on that note, I do not understand how people have had time to start it. I haven’t even really decided what I am writing my next 25 page paper on, let alone started the research, and it is due way sooner than I leave for institute), I have to learn how to be an adult. I feel like I am definitely behind other people in this area. I guess you have to start from where you are!

Since this post is getting pretty long and there are probably very few people who care anyway, I will end with the fact that I have gotten some really interesting mixed reactions when I tell people that I am doing TFA in the Delta next year. It normally does a little something like this (and I am sure the other Delta corps members can relate):

Them-”So do you know what you are doing next year?”┬áMe-”Yea! I do! I am doing Teach For America.” Them-”Ohhhh great! That is so exciting! Do you know where you are going to be teaching?” Me-”Yup. I am going to be in the Mississippi Delta area, so rural Mississippi or Arkansas.” Them-”Ohhhhh…[slightly awkwardly long pause] well that is going to be interesting…” Me-”Yea I am really excited. It was my first choice.” Them-”Wow. Well. Good luck with that. Should be quite the experience.”

But, I think it WILL be quite the experience. And it WAS my first choice region. People tend to react assuming that TFA decided to stick me in the Delta after I requested something more glamorous like the Bay Area. But why would I want glamorous when I can have somewhere with so very many mosquitoes that is known for having some of the worst schools in the country AND some of the worst race relations in the country. I say go big or go home. If you are going to move to somewhere with bad schools, move to somewhere with the worst schools.

I can move to DC or NYC or the Bay Area anytime I want to, but when else would I get the opportunity to move to the Mississippi Delta? The census showed that the Delta is one of the few parts of the country where the population is declining (the most famous, of course, being Detroit. And that is my next stop), so I figure this is the perfect time to go. Not only do they need teachers, they need people in general. So even if I am a bad teacher, I feel certain that I will be an excellent tax-payer and economy stimulator.

6 Responses

  1. akeeba

    aw hon getting lost in the nothingness of southern VA is tough, i’ve been there. You’d think they would have a testing site closer to a more populated area!

    the reactions you’re getting are pretty much the same as mine. even though i did put other areas before the Delta, I put the Delta as highly preferred because they said they needed people. Plus, I knew if I put the Delta anywhere on the application, I was going to the Delta. So even though it wasn’t technically my first choice, I knew I’d get placed there. I keep telling people I’m super excited to go and keep getting that “ok…interesting” answer. They don’t know what they are missing! You’re right, when else are you going to get all this support to see a different side of our country?

  2. Ben

    woman driver gets lost… smh.

    while I agree with your assessment of Lynchburg, I’m not sure I’d say it’s in the Southwestern part of VA. More just south. it’s no Big Stone Gap.

  3. deltarachel

    I was just thinking today that if I had a dollar for every person who responded “Well that will certainly be an experience…” when I told them I was doing TFA in Mississippi, I would actually be able to afford to move to Mississippi and do TFA!

    • DeltaMatt

      Fellow Delta corps members – I can’t agree with you more. It seems that the most popular response to that I’m moving to the Delta with Teach For America is “Should be quite the experience.”

      While it may not be the most glamorous, it certainly is one of the highest need regions. I actually feel priveliged to be placed in the Delta – because I know that in this region the potential impact that we may have on the students will be one where it is most needed.

  4. elsa

    I totally agree with you! Another response I get is just “But why?” “Why would you want to move there?”

    And the fact that people ask that shows me why I want to go there.

  5. Hannahbear

    Write more.

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Just another Teach For Us site

Region
Mississippi Delta
Grade
High School
Subject
Math

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