Teaching Tree Hugging

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Jun 26 2007

TFA = totally free afternoon

This has most likely been the best kept secret ever. The most jaw dropping surprise. I have never had a surprise birthday party thrown for me, but I have a feeling that this was ten times better. A completely free afternoon? Amazing.

We were all called into the media center for an emergency school meeting. I was grumbling in my head about how hungry I was. Although most of our lunches are spent working with our collabs, its a precious 25 minutes that I can claim as sort of mine. At least more mine than most other moments in the day. 25 minutes when I am not being lectured at or lecturing. When they broke the serious faces after stringing us on for a bit, and revealed the truth about this afternoon, there was immediate excitement and relief across the room.

All I can say about the past handful of days is that they have been a roller coaster. With very high highs, and very low lows. Often times I felt like I was making such progress and growth, only to face severe lack of sleep and management problems the next. Apparently I have yet to find my “assertive voice” and “angry teacher stare” which makes for very challenging classroom management. I have a few students who are refusing to learn. One that is so bored because she has already mastered the material. Three that laugh in my face when I administer a consequence. Two that are dealing with severe issues outside of the classroom, things that I would never even fathom 14 year olds had to deal with. One that has test scores on about a 3rd grade level, and can barely read the word problems, but conducts himself as a model student and whispered to me on Monday, “Them girls aren’t acting like they should be in high school. You gotta be so tired of them. Just please don’t leave us like other teachers.” The past seven days have been simultaneously heart breaking and mind breaking. I have been pushed to my limits on a few occasions, questioning whether this is how I want to achieve my goal.

Brian and the family were definitely my rocks this past weekend. Talking to them helps me to remember why this is important to me, the big picture, and how much I am growing. Sometimes when you’re just stuck right in it, you cannot see your own gains and growth. They are jointly worried and proud of me at the same time. It’s a joke that they talk about flying down to “de-program” me and take me away… but sometimes it is a nice daydream. And I guess that is exactly how I am about myself too… worried that I am staying up too late, not taking care of myself, following too much without questioning. But at the same time, I’m proud. I’m proud that I have really reached some of my students. I’m proud that I can step in front of a classroom of 14 middle schoolers and teach for 50 minutes. I’m proud that I am persistently functioning at such a high level with no sleep, high stress and no free time.

I look around me and I am continuously amazed. What I see here, the individual steps we all are taking every day, are not only happening at the other institutes across the country, but our individual steps from this summer are truly going to turn into a nationwide movement as we step into our classrooms in our regions. The power and energy is floors me.

So for now, it’s tough. The toughest thing I have ever done. But amazing. And inspiring. And tiring. But I’m halfway through. And for this afternoon only, I will enjoy my free time. I’ll go to a BBQ, walk to Barnes and Noble to get my educator’s discount, and do laundry. I will take a deep DEEP breath, and get ready to take tomorrow on the best I can… and maybe even hope to find my assertive voice and angry teacher stare.

love & hug a tree

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