Northerner In Nashville

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
May 22 2011

Way Overdue Post

In a nutshell, I have fallen down on all lines of communication. I don’t remember the last time that I talked on the phone with my parents, I haven’t talked to my brother in over a month on my way to my reunion, and the only real conversation I’ve had with anyone I reconnected with over reunion was conducted while I simultaneously changed clothes, worked out, and went to the grocery store.

But perhaps its better that the last weeks have been a blur, because I think I would fall into a bad state if I dwelled on some of the details. My teaching has utterly fallen apart and any semblance of management has gone out the window. I actually had a student say “man, why does science have to come in the way of our computer time?” (note: she was supposed to be using the computer to do research for a science project). Numerous people in my life at school and at home have undergone serious tragedies — including the co-worker who shares my name being part of this. When it feels like everyone else around me is going through difficult stuff, it just makes me feel guilty about my own problems.

Guilt. The word keeps coming up over and over again in my head. I feel guilty of failing my students — even though my class made 1.3 years of reading growth and my class average is on benchmark in reading for the district, my students are still not passing reading tests. During orientation to TFA last summer and learning about the expectations of “Significant gains” according to TFA, I remember someone asking about the people who fell below limited gains and having the question being dismissed as unlikely. Well, take a look — here’s what it looks like.

I feel guilty about even having my job. A large number of teachers have been displaced across the district, including a wonderful teacher at my school that has had an immensely positive influence on my daily attitude and teaching style. I’ve inferred and also been pretty much told that being part of TFA is the only reason I didn’t get let go. Then I feel guilty, because the question that’s been crossing my mind for a while now is for my second year, why should I stay in TFA? Then I feel selfish because its framed in terms of what am I, and subsequently my students, getting from it? How different would my second year look if I stayed at my school but wasn’t part of TFA?

Maybe I’m in a unique position, but I’m not surrounded by rah-rah TFA spirit. I feel like its held against me at my school. Several of the people I spend the most time with have already quit or spent most of the year debating it. There are days where I’ve cursed the mysterious TFA process that placed me here in Nashville instead of back at home where there are friends and family that I miss deeply. I think the nadir was probably when my name was said at the 2nd year’s Alumni dinner — my last name was said to distinguish from another CM who is memorable enough not to have to be referred to by her last name every time. And if that seems like I’m reading too much into it, my name wasn’t even pronounced right.

My personal long-term plan has included TFA since 10th grade, ever since I decided I wanted to teach in a low-income school. I knew it would be hard — I’ve had numerous friends go into teaching and spent time in some of their classrooms. I loved the idea of teaching elementary school and having a formative influence on my kids. I get to teach American History, my all time favorite subject. I didn’t have to ultimately choose between teaching or working at a museum because of the unique curriculum at my school.

But if happy is what happens when your dreams come true, then why do I feel so unhappy?

2 Responses

  1. We can all feel like we are not doing our best, and that we are letting down our kids (but more often, ourselves), but what matter is what you DO about it. Just know that we are not instantly transformational teachers, we are made, through hard work, failures after failures, and adapting from those failures. Choose just ONE thing to focus on improving for these last weeks, and have that one thing be built on one of your strengths and on a vision that you can clearly see in your head (for example, I can clearly see how my students need to enter my room every single day –quickly, respectfully, shaking my hand at the door with a firm handshake and eye contact, keeping the hallway clear, getting straight to work on the Do Now) so for about two weeks, that’s what my battle of the day was, and yes, other things could go wrong even if I worked hard on it, but I wouldn’t let those failures drag my spirit down nor dwell on them. Those battles for another day. And, winning the war is winning one battle at a time.

  2. Channah

    Reading the blog!!! Miss you!!!

    haha made me think of our mutual love of this….

    p.s. woohooo 1.3 years!!!! that’s awesome!!

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a 2010 CM’s experiences

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