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?” Me-”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.