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.