Down to the Delta

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Aug 25 2011

One Day At A Time

I have not written forever, and I don’t really have an excuse. The past month and a half has been a whirlwind, but, since that probably won’t stop for the next two years, I should get used to it.

So, how are things going? Well, after summer school ended, I packed my bags and moved to Arkansas. Whenever anyone asks me whether I like it here, I always say, “The people are really nice.” And I mean that. It is very different from anywhere I have been before, including Mississippi this summer. I think a lot of that has to do with the demographics of my town and my school. It is about 50/50 black/white and the wealth disparity is huge and noticeable. There is a fortune 500 company with its headquarters in town, but, not more than a few miles down the road, there are some of the poorest looking neighborhoods I have ever seen. As you can imagine, this just makes for a really interesting town, both in population and in actual structure of the town. There are some things that I am not sure I will ever get used to about the way people around here think about things like race, but I really hope I DON’T ever get used to them. I want these things to stay shocking to me. When they fail to be shocking, I know it will be time for me to take some time away from here.

So in addition to the move being somewhat of a shock to the system in certain ways, teaching has been as well. It isn’t that I am so tired or so busy or feel so totally overwhelmed. No. I am just nervous. Every morning, I wake up nervous. Every night, I go to bed nervous. What exactly am I nervous about? I wish I knew. Then maybe I could put a stop to it. Maybe I am nervous about letting my kids down. Maybe I am nervous about spending two years teetering between just ok and unhappy. Maybe I am nervous that I am never going to be competent. I honestly don’t know. I think it might be a combination of all these things. But I do know that it eats away at me. I need to find some sort of coping method, because feeling nervous like this every single day is not sustainable.

The one thing I really am not questioning is how much I love my kids. They are so great. All of them. And I need to spend a lot more time telling them how great they are. Yes, I have had some problems with lack of motivation or talking when we are supposed to be in silent mode, but, overall, my kids are great. They are not nearly as far behind as my summer school kids were (for the most part at least), but I still can’t get over some of the things I have seen. Just little things mostly, like how they struggle with fractions. Or their difficulty spelling pretty simple words. I just don’t really get how that happens to an entire group of kids in this country. And the worst part to me is that they don’t know how far behind. They have no idea what other kids around the country are doing, and, for the most part, they appear to have a pretty good amount of confidence about where they are. Not that I don’t want my kids to have confidence, but I am struggling with the fact that I want them to dream big, but I also want them to realize how very much work it would take for them to get to the point where they are ready to do all the big things they want for themselves. Maybe that will come with building relationships with them.

I also will take one second to rant. My feelings toward TFA are not entirely positive right now. Although I think it is good that the powers that be challenge us to do so very much, I also have never felt so bad about myself so consistently before. I am trying to do everything. I am trying to teach my kids geometry while trying to invest them in school and in me and in the class while trying to build relationships with my colleagues while trying to take care of myself while trying to keep in touch with the people at home while trying to make myself believe that I really can handle doing this for two years and to just put one foot in front of the other and before I know it I will have some idea what I am doing. But for me, and maybe not for other people, it is too much. It is just plain too much to handle emotionally. I feel pretty awful right now. Not all the time, but a lot of the time, and in a way that HAS to change. I’m not sure exactly how to take the pressure off myself, but TFA certainly is not helping right now.

I am trying to take it one day at a time, but it is extremely difficult not to look at the whole two years and feel tiny and incompetent and just plain like I can’t do it.

I wish I had a more positive post like my roommate, Mr. G, but maybe that will come with time for me.

One Response

  1. Chrissie

    Hey there! I just wanted to let you know that I’ve really enjoyed reading your blog updates and getting a really solid idea of where you are and what your days look like. I’m not from TFA (obviously), but just know as someone who has definitely been in over-her-head :) that you ARE doing a great job…really. I’ve had several friends who have worked for TFA and they have all felt the same way–way too many expectations, obligations, being pulled one way or the other and basically set-up to be superman…just know that your kids are lucky to have you. Change will be slower to come sometimes that you might hope for, no matter how good you are, but you are dedicating your actions for some point, in the distant future (you might likely not be around to see it), where they will be at a crossroads and they will be better prepared/better able or in a better place to make decisions based upon what you will spend these next two years working towards…

    If you ever get too down, let me know and I have lots of good pick me up lines (that’s pick me up…not pick up haha). If nothing else I can tell you stories of the current rowers–ha!

    Take Care

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