Today I had the fortune and opportunity to visit my new school for an afternoon of in-classroom observations. In addition to meeting some of the teachers with whom I’ll eventually teach, I also got to meet the principal and one of the guidance counselors.
I want to be very careful when writing about all of this, because my school is pretty unique and would probably be easily recognizable if I described it in detail. So, I will say this:
I loved it.
To be honest, while driving to the campus, I was pretty nervous and even teared up a bit, just freaking out (as usual) over the fact that this will be my drive every morning and every evening of the next two years. It just made things even more real – which wasn’t helped by my discovery a few days ago that the graduation stage has already been set up at my university – and I always feel a little sick when I realize how quickly real life is hurtling at me.
All my fears, though, were immediately put at ease. I was welcome warmly by a few teachers in the lobby of the front office (one even said she had Facebook-creeped on me – which of course I loved, because I am a huge Facebook creeper too so I felt right at home). In all of the classrooms I observed, students were engaged, on-task, and doing high-level work. I got to meet with an upper-level administrator who told me the instructional team sometimes goes to area private schools to see what the students are doing there, to ensure that students at my school will be on par with their peers when they get to college. This is just one of the 92358345 things I loved hearing about throughout the course of the afternoon.
What I loved most, though, was the school culture. There was a tremendous amount of pride and mutual respect among teachers, students, and administrators. Everyone smiled at each other as they walked through the hallways and the culture seemed orderly without being overly disciplinary. Students weren’t only expected to be well-behaved and focused, but they were also expected to go above and beyond, challenging themselves to meet high standards.
Something I thought a lot about was emotional fit. I’ve found that I get easily stressed – and exhausted, really – when I can tell I’m in a situation where I’m just in a different emotional place than the people around me. It’s hard to adequately explain but there’s a feeling I get when I know I belong someplace. I feel at home. And that was what I felt today. I could tell everyone around me was on the same page; I can’t even count the number of times I was told, “We’re so excited to have you here! Please let us know if there’s anything we can do to help!” I felt like I would never be alone here, that there will always be people alongside me, challenging me to do my best and supporting me through the rough days. And that made me feel so much better.
I know I have a huge learning curve ahead of me, and I accept that. I know I will probably be a pretty bad first-year teacher because that’s just how these things go. But to have the honor of working alongside such fantastic people, on a mission I so deeply believe in…I feel pretty lucky.
The two main pieces of advice I got today:
1. “I can already tell you’re a nice person. Don’t be too nice with the students. Any misbehavior you tolerate will keep coming back at you, over and over, unless you establish standards.”
2. “Ask questions. Ask for help. Never be afraid to try something new.”
In all, I feel invigorated and excited to be working in this environment. In non-TFA news, I’m struggling through finals period here, trying to find the motivation to write papers when they feel so irrelevant to what I’ll be doing next year. I’ll be done by Wednesday and then begins the ten days between finals and graduation, when seniors generally complete bucket list items and just enjoy each others’ company. I’m trying not to think about “lasts” and instead just enjoy the time I have here. I still have eighteen more thank-you notes to write, to various mentors and mentees and incredible people in my life, so I always appreciate the chance to slow down and be grateful for all the people I’ve had the fortune to get to know.
To wrap it up, I was heartened to hear that today, President Obama called Jason Collins (the NBA player who came out) to express his support. The world really is a beautiful place, and when we have true equality (educational/religious/sexual/racial/etc.) for all, it will be even more beautiful.