Sunday, June 04, 2006

...this is my head in the middle of the night

This blog will probably not have this much activity in "normal" times (though I'm thinking/fearing that my life will not be "normal" again for a very, very long time...but was it ever, really?).

So I've been reading a bunch of the pre-institute work for TfA, and it makes me terrrrrrribly nervous. I mean, in some ways it's made me feel better--
Bombarded with doubts, Ms. Lora chose to rationalize those comments [voicing disapproval of her choice to become an inner-city teacher with Teach for America] as misguided assumptions based in ignorance, rather than debilitating prejudices based in malice. She knew that most of her loved ones, college friends, mentors, and family just did not think about how stark, and shameful, the achievement gap is in this country. She knew for a fact that none of those people had met the amazing children that were still gathering backpacks and pencils in her room at this very moment. Self-protectively, she resisted the more obvious, and perhaps more likely, scenario that many of her friends, family, and advisors had succumbed to the insidious but subtle social pressure to view children like Ms. Lora's as somehow less capable than the children in better schools.*
--because it's nice to know that I'm doing this with people like Ms. Lora who are as serious about helping and making a difference as I am. But in some ways the reading and preparation has made me feel worse--
Somehow, in this moment, the prospect of being a teacher was making her feel like a child. What will these children be like? What will they think of her? Will she be able to handle it?*
--because there is only a small, cold comfort in knowing that someone else is as terrified as you are. And that comfort isn't really comfort as much as it's a "misery loves company" type of sadism, I think. (Think me harsh if you will, but I think it's true. Empathy is only too devastatingly close to sado-masochism in some acute cases.)

I'm glad that I'm starting to feel more and more prepared, but I'm also afraid of the ways I will fuck up. I was telling Meghan the other day that I recognize some personal traits I'm going to have to work hard against to even be able to function in this environment. For example, I'm going to have to work on my pride. It's an enormous thing, my pride, and it will only get in the way in situations where I'm trying and failing and getting a point across; it's not about me doing something with finesse or getting it right so that I look's about the kids learning and achieving. Which means that I'm going to have to remember how to be less selfish in my diagnosing of problems. Not "what am I doing wrong?" but "what can I do to teach them to do it right?" Similar things, but with an important difference: they are the yardstick, not me.

Now, I'm used to comparing myself to other people, but I'm not used to measuring other people's achievements as the golden rule rather than my own. I will have to work on that.

I will have to work on my personal belief that I can get by with my charm and natural talent. Already I'm learning that I will have to bust it for this, and I'm going to have to keep learning that over and over. I think it will be good for me. To consciously work hard. (For one thing, I know that I work harder than I realize and give myself credit for. That's a problem with my own self-perception that I need to work on. BUT I also have a hard time actually working as hard as I know I should because I know that my low-grade output is better than most people's high-grade, so why bother? Why bother? Because I can do better, so there's no good reason not to. So suck it up and live up to my potential...and I bet the kids I teach will too. If I work, they'll work, right?)

Ooookay. I'm starting to weird myself out with the uber-high level of self-analysis and awareness (though I'm also sort of...excited by it, I'll admit), so I'm going to go ahead and try to get some sleep around the whirring thoughts and fears and hopes in my brain.

I can't wait to have a classroom full of kids.

Oh, my god, I'm going to have a classroom full of kids. What am I thinking?

*Excerpts from Teaching As Leadership: Ms. Lora's Story, by Steven Farr, Copyright © 2006 by Teach for America


Andy said...

The worst thing that can happen with a classroom full of kids is they gang up on you and try to pull down your pants. It happened to me once, but we learn from our mistakes. I wore a belt the next day, even though I was wearing exercise shorts.

But in all seriousness, I think teaching is all about flexibility. Some things will work. Some things won't. Don't get attached to something if you find out it doesn't work -- scrap it and try something else. You're smart, and you're flexible. You can think on the fly and adjust on the fly, and that's what teaching is all about. You'll see the lightbulbs go off, and it will re-enforce certain methods that work. And methods will work, I guarantee it.

I'm certain that you'll do wonderfully. I plan to track Houston's collective IQ; my bet is it will go steadily upward.

Anonymous said...

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