Teach Houston

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Apr 17 2013

new beginnings

In the days since my “panic” post, so many life changes have been happening. some are intentional, deliberate things I’ve done to make myself more prepared for what lies ahead. other things have just kind of fallen into my lap. together they have combined to give me more peace and calm as I approach the final few weeks of college.

First and foremost, the big news…I have a job! I received a phone call from a principal over the weekend  who offered me a job teaching English! I will likely be teaching either 8th or 9th grade and am still in shock that this is all actually happening. I love words, I love writing, and I could not be more excited to share that love with my students. I’m also excited for the chance to work with people I know, some 2012 CMs from my university, and some 2013 CMs (who I met through college or through TFA Preview Weekend, when a bunch of Houston corps members came here to interview). I don’t think all of this has really sunk in yet. I had to stop myself from happy-crying while on the phone with the principal as I jumped around my room.

And the second big news…I have roommates! Yes. Finally. I’m so excited. I was actually incredibly concerned about this, because though I’m pretty introverted, if I don’t have people to talk to I just kind of sink into my own head. Plus I always get sad in the evenings if I don’t have at least one person to eat dinner with – my family ate dinner together every single night and it was a huge part of my upbringing. One of my roommates is also a senior at my university who will be staying here in Houston for next year. She’s doing a program similar to TFA but not actually TFA. The other roommate is also a TFA corps member so we will all be on the same schedule and dealing with similar challenges. I feel so fortunate to be living with them and now our main action item is apartment-hunting. Searching for an apartment has been a new but exciting experience…there’s a very strong on-campus culture here, so I’ve actually lived on campus in the dorms for all four years of college. It’s scary but thrilling to know I’m taking the next step towards finally becoming a “real person.”

Having a job and roommates has removed a lot of the unsettling uncertainty that sent me into such a panic last weekend. To further calm myself down, I’ve been pretty intentional about reaching out to all the mentors and friends I can. Current corps members, TFA alumni who went to my university, current teachers at the school I interviewed at last week, professors here at college, my closest friends. I’ve been gathering opinions and sifting through them, taking a little bit of everything as I make my way through the next few weeks.

In many ways, I am deeply fortunate to have such people in my life. I kind of “collect” them as I go, reaching out to people who I can tell are truly good people. And from all of this advice I’ve discovered a few things. I’ll write them down here so I don’t forget any of it:

 

1. Missing something is not the same thing as wanting to go back. Sure, I will probably miss college, and miss all these uniquely college experiences, but that doesn’t mean I’d want to go back and re-experience everything all over again.

2. Intentionality is important. Planning in fun time, purposefully scheduling time for coffee with friends, intentionally creating situations where I can have deep intellectual conversations that don’t solely revolve around teaching/TFA.

3. I need to have a life outside of TFA, but if it doesn’t fall into place immediately, that’s okay. It make take me several months to understand how to manage my time and do what I need to do in order to have a fulfilling life outside of the classroom. My first months with TFA will not be how the rest of my time with TFA goes. I’m not necessarily creating new traditions or setting anything into stone. I’ll likely just be trying to survive. So if I look around in October, and my work-life balance is awful and I’m constantly overwhelmed, it’s okay. It won’t be forever.

4. The nature of friendships change in the real world. You have to be really purposeful about making time, and if you know you’re headed into a hard few months, just let your friends know. It’s all about setting expectations and making sure everyone’s on the same page. In college you just sort of fall into friendships and they thrive off their own momentum…and you can still have incredibly rewarding friendships after college, it’s just a different style of friendship.

 

I know there was more, and I think I wrote about it in my journal, but for now, just some food for thought.

I’ve been trying to be very intentional about just living in the moment here and not constantly thinking about how many “lasts” I’ve been experiencing over the past few weeks. I’ve so far had two goodbye dinners, two final midterms, one senior toast, and three invitations to other goodbye receptions. I successfully defended my senior honors thesis and was fortunate to win the top sociology prize for graduating seniors. Over the weekend I went to the annual toga party, a uniquely college experience that I have a strong suspicion will not be happening in my life after I graduate. But that’s okay. We all have to grow up sometimes.

And speaking of growing up, I took my TEXES exam today! I can check my scores in three days to see if I passed or not. It was definitely pretty tough to take the exam having essentially no teaching experience under my belt…it just reiterated for me how much I have yet to learn, how much I have no idea about  - lots of respect and humility (to quote TFA’s core values) over the next few months and years of my life.

In trying to make the most of these last few weeks, I’m really making an effort to stop and be quietly grateful for all the little joys of college, grateful in a way that is just happy and not necessarily wistful. For me there’s a huge difference between thinking “I am so lucky I get to be in this moment, with these people” vs. “I am so lucky to be here but I know it’ll end soon and I’ll be sad.” Sometimes my brain defaults to the second sentiment, but I’m trying to constantly pivot around to the first. I don’t want the constant all-of-this-will-soon-be-over to cloud all the wonderful things that accompany the end of senior year. For instance, I got to celebrate with my roommate as she got her first job offer – though she’ll likely be leaving Houston, our friendship is certainly not conditional on living in the same place. We drank wine and watched a classic Houston thunderstorm and ate hummus and just talked about life. She’s a forever-friend and for that I am grateful. I’m heading to Happy Hour with some friends on Friday to celebrate the last day of classes, and  I’ve already scheduled a trip to Schlitterbahn, a water park that’s a classic Texas attraction, for the time in between finals and graduation. I’ll be going with some great friends and I’m excited for us to share our last few days of senior year together.  I delivered the meditation before dinner at one of the farewell dinners at the end of last week (have I mentioned I am strongly considering becoming a rabbi someday?) and it was the first time I’d ever done anything like that before. New experiences are beautiful.

I know that so many new experiences lie in store for me next year. I’m excited to greet them, though the uncertainty and unknown aspect is always a bit unnerving.

 

So I suppose if I had to sum everything up, it would be to say that I’ve gotten more comfortable with the idea of graduation and embracing my new life. I think that before, I was feeling lots of pressure to recreate the exact same sort of life and community I had in college, and I panicked about all the ways that feels seemingly impossible. But I’m just going to let things happen as they happen; life will take me where it takes me and as long as I maintain a strong sense of who I am, everything will be okay.

 

I want to conclude by sharing a quote that has really helped me over the past two weeks, as I see so many changes on the horizon, as I see my old life slipping through my grasp.

“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them, that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.”

 

Over the past two weeks I’ve spent a lot of time resisting change. And there was a lot of sorrow involved with that. So my hope for the next month until graduation is that I can embrace change as I would an old friend, and that when the time comes, I will move gracefully into wherever my life may take me.

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    Journeys, challenges, & writings of a first-year teacher.

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    Houston
    Grade
    Middle School

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