The world is full of wonderful people…

… who offer an outpouring of support when I need it. From a friendly facebook message to a frank chat with roommates, to advice and reassurance from those who have been there and done that, every bit helps. Especially a kind word from my institute colab teacher, who is just amazing and is my teaching hero for everything wonderful she is capable of.

I’m taking things a step at a time, trying to get my head above water. I’ve scheduled time to sit and talk with another teacher in my department tomorrow, and my TFA program director next week. I think these conversations will help me ground myself and clear away some of these clouds. I’ve also decided that the best possible thing I can do for my mental health is to set up exciting landmarks in my life. This weekend is a long weekend, and we’re going camping on the beach. Looking forward to that is keeping me positive.

I had been avoiding thinking about going back to St. Louis, mostly because I felt that would somehow be escapist and not productive. However, I think a quick visit to the people I love and the place I feel safe and happy would be good for me. I can get my feet back under me, relax, and remind myself that there is life outside of teaching. So I’ve decided to stomach the expense of a plane ticket (not that it’s a large expense, but I don’t get paid until the end of September, so at this point a breakfast taco is a large expense) and go to St. Louis on my October long weekend.

The thought occurred to me today, during facebooking back and forth with my amazing friend Joel. He’s one of those people I miss with an overwhelming intensity, just a wonderful person I am so privileged to know (though if he asks, don’t tell him so :p ). We were joking about him visiting me, and I started to think, offhandedly, why don’t I just visit him? and for that matter, all of my amazing St. Louis friends?

Then the school year schedule came out, and I noticed Columbus day. Oh Columbus, I have never been so happy for the undue reverence we allow you. Have long weekend, will travel?

The airfare is within my budget, timewise and moneywise. And lo and behold, I facebook my friend Uri to see if I would have a place to stay, and find out rather quickly that I do. So it looks like this trip will become my October landmark.

This is not to say I’ll be measuring the days just to get through them. But it’s awfully nice to be looking forward to going somewhere you love with so much of your heart. J’adore St. Louis.

P.S. Hot damn! That weekend is Soulard Oktoberfest weekend!! Which means polka, beer, bratwurst, leiderhosen, and of course… LOVEYKINS!!

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Doubts and Fears

If there is one thing Teach For America does not prepare you adequately for, it is the self-doubt. My first week teaching here in Texas was not bad– my kids learned a few things, I got to know them, and I feel like I’m starting to get the routine down. However, if there is one thing I learned this week, it’s this: I am NOT a good teacher.

That’s not to say I won’t become one, or that this is a fault mine in particular. But, coming out of TFA institute, most of us have tasted success. We’ve learned, we’ve been supported. However, there is an incredible instinct among TFA people to never, never admit that things are hard. Talk to a bunch of TFA teachers  and you would think that the job is all sunshine and rainbows. The achievement gap is real, and scary, but we’re the warriors who are going to take it down. We have the tools. We have the drive. How could we fail?

However, I think it’s important to say this from time to time: I am a bad teacher right now. Truth is, I cannot start the year as a good teacher. I probably won’t become a good teacher this month. maybe not this year.  The learning curve is steep. The actual practice of teaching is more difficult than they could ever prepare you for. And there is always something more, something better I could be doing for my students. The more you do, the harder it gets: want your kids to journal every day? get ready to read 83 journals. Quizzes? grading. Want to use better stories than the ones in the book? Hours searching for them. It’s overwhelming.

Sam and I had a good discussion about our doubts in the car today. As two of the few people coming in to teach for America looking to potentially start a long term career in teaching, we both find ourselves shaken. Although I know, in the logical part of my mind, that I can’t possibly be an incredible teacher the first week, this nagging thought began to grow in my cerebral cortex during my first week with my students. “Maybe this is not for you,”it said. “you’re already failing. You’re just not good at this.”  I’m still in charge of my own brain enough to ignore the voice. But it’s there.

My other doubt springs from Texas itself. I really do like it here– there’s so much to explore, and the beach is right nearby– what could be better? But in St. Louis, the leaves will begin to change soon. The air will crackle with the smell of autumn, my favorite part of the year. Autumn is full of possibilities, full of life. I’m beginning to pine for it. I’ve definitely been considering moving to the east coast in a few years, and in times of doubt, I worry that I picked the wrong home.

Still, one thing I do know is that I’ve found amazing friends here. Talking all of this over with Sam and knowing that I’m not alone in my fears and doubts made it much easier. My friends at work are so supportive, sending me smiles and notes and anything they can to help me out in my first year. And sitting at the kitchen table eating a home-cooked meal every night with my roommates, I feel at home. These are the things I need to remember.

A Very lone star weekend

Friday night lights…

Go Bulldogs!

Saturday night rodeo…

Rodeoing with Roomies!

I don't remember what this event is called... but it's cool!

And of course, cowboy boots!!

I snuck a picture of Roomie's feet...

One Lucky Gal

Now we have internet in the lakehouse.  Huzzah!!

Things have been moving along here in the Valley. I’ve started at my new school, where I’ll be teaching English II (tenth grade).  I must admit, I was so nervous for my first day there. Like every profession has it’s evil boss stories, I had heard so many horror stories about principles and other teachers from TFA members. I wondered how I would get along with my colleagues, and whether or not they would actually take me seriously given my age.  Would they be nice? would they like me? Would I fit in? Suddenly I remembered all of the worries my students will be facing in high school. I guess that fear never really leaves us.

Of course, I needn’t have worried. The rest of my department, and really, everyone I’ve met at my school are so wonderful. The administration is caring and open. My mentor and my next door neighbor (class-room neighbor) are the kindest people ever, and have offered me so much help already! I feel so at home there. More importantly, I feel as if my colleagues and I see eye to eye on expectations of our students. I got warm fuzzies all around my heart when our curriculum specialist for English said exactly what I’ve been thinking– it’s not about teaching to the TAKS test, it’s about taking the students to a higher level of learning. If we can get them there, the test won’t be an issue, merely a change to prove what they know.

I’m also very comforted by knowing more of the logistics of my class. I’ll be hanging out in room 186 all year, in the beautiful new wing of our school. I have first and second bell conference– so I don’t teach until 10am. It’s amazing– I get to settle in, get problems solved, and mentally prepare before I begin teaching. Another piece of good news was my bell schedule. At my school, tenth grade English students have a block English schedule– which means that I get my students for an entire hour and a half instead of 45 minutes!! I’m so thankful for my schedule. I was a bit panicked about making any learning happen in 45 minutes (although, to be fair, in high school I would have found 1.5 hour classes insane). It also means I only have 3 classes, which means less students, less grading, and more personal attention for each of them. Although on hard days I’m sure I won’t be singing this same tune, I couldn’t be happier right now about my block scheduling. Or really, about my school in general. I don’t think there’s a better thing in this world for a new teacher than starting out in a school where you feel supported and cared for, and where your colleagues are all committed to leading our students to success, no matter how hard the path.

Lakehouse internet

…fail. Will return.