Teaching Tree Hugging

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Mar 17 2008

Back in PHX

Descending by plane into the Phoenix urban area is depressing. The sprawling city with its strip malls and congested intersections is obvious in its clutter, disorganization and lack of aesthetic appeal even from high altitudes. As I flew in last night I felt every atom in my body resisting and wishing to be back on the East Coast. This past week I had felt at home not only in the kitchen I grew up with the familiar smells of my mom’s cooking, but also among the high rises, the taxis and the pedestrians. I loved the rocking of the subway train from Queens to Manhattan, hearing a mélange of languages spoken all around me. I missed the Charles River, Harvard Square and the familiar laughs of my best friends. Every time I go back East I rediscover myself and parts of my life that I miss. I feel like I left myself back there. Back exploring new streets with B, playing on the slides behind Salem State with my niece, walking to dinner with the girls in the shadow of Fenway Park. Its funny I’ve never lived in New York but I feel even more at home there with B than I have in Phoenix yet. Who I am has been left on the East Coast with the people I love. Phoenix is lonely and cold (despite the heat), it is a non-city with no tall buildings, no pedestrians… no water. It is devoid of those whom are most important to me yet full of people who are angry, who don’t make sense to me, and who frustrate me. I sit here now and think about how different my life was just two days ago, sipping Sangria and laughing with my boyfriend in a dimly lit, over crowded tapas bar.

In the day in and day out of life at Julian, I bring my science passion and a diligence to all the work that I do but beyond that I do not feel like this is me. TFA forces me to become this type A person that I am not; Julian shocks me beyond belief and causes me to become bitter and astonished at the educational system. Maybe I have just hit the low of returning from a vacation, but it is becoming clearer and clearer to me how much I have lost touch with who I am. How effective can I be if I do not feel like myself? And how effective can I be if I continue to work in a place that fosters disrespect and degradation? There are 10 weeks of school left and of course I’m excited to delve into the rock cycle with the kids… and summer vacation is a fantastic reward for working my butt off all year. But then to turn around at the end of July and come back for round 2? That is going to be the biggest challenge of all.

Ok so I guess I can’t paint the whole picture negative… today, being the first day back, was 90% good. The weather was nice, the 60 degree late afternoon warmth and smell of wet ground that reminds me of early May in Boston. I held science club outside, the kids asked cool questions and were mostly on task and quiet.

But the other 10%? One student taking two sharpies to my tables and scribbling away. Like a huge Picasso mess all over both tables. Then I witnessed a fight between two teachers on the play ground (in front of the kids at recess) where a big man (a paraprofessional) physically threatening a smaller woman (the gym teacher). He was yelling “I don’t have to listen to a DAMN thing you say” and “Step the HELL down. Back off. Don’t ever speak to me again.” This was all because she asked for her P.E. balls to be returned? Are you serious! I stood in shock while it happened, and then the woman asked me to be a witness on her report charge. Not only is this environment highly negative for children, but it is also really not a positive professional place for any adult to work in. I don’t know why I still am so surprised by it all…

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