Teach Houston

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Jun 23 2013

finally, a time to feel my feelings

It’s 12:34 AM as I write this, from a wooden table in the harsh light of Houston Institute 2013. I stopped lesson planning about thirty minutes ago and have just been thinking about things. I’ve been thinking about this site a lot lately – how I used to be able to use it to write about feelings, and now all the feelings (it seems) have been sucked out of me so I use it to chronicle the ins and outs of my life at Institute.

Don’t get me wrong, I think a travelogue of Institute is certainly valid. Those are the kinds of posts I read all those evenings last year, as I tried to figure out what it means to be at Institute, what it means to be a corps member, what it means to be part of this movement. So I’m glad I wrote all that; even if no one reads it but incoming CMs, it will have been more than worth it.


I guess what I’m trying to say is…I miss writing. I miss feelings. I miss thinking about things that aren’t TFA. I miss deep, intellectual conversations that aren’t about teaching. I miss lying outside, I miss spontaneous moments with friends. It hadn’t hit me until today how much I missed all of these things. For the first week of Institute I was just in survival mode. I needed the basics – food, professional clothes, friends. I didn’t even think about all the other stuff. but the words are still inside of me, bubbling up, and I can’t bury them forever.

I’m teaching Math this summer, which in its own strange way, has actually been a really beautiful journey. I’ve been placed so far outside my comfort zone that I almost just have to throw up my hands and laugh and run with it rather than ruminate over how miserable math was for me, so much trouble over so many years. And trying to learn how to teach math has just made me even more cognizant of how I will always be an English teacher at heart. Words – not tested words, not words written in full sentences to satisfy requirements, not words expressed to show you understand a math problem – words are terrible and beautiful and they can stretch their spindly fingers into all the cracks of your life. Words touch my heart in a way nothing ever will and so though I submit myself to numbers this summer, I’ll always come back to my true passion at the end.


Words are tricky. Dangerous, even. It’s exhausting to run everything I write on this site through my head, wondering how it will all be perceived – interpreted – misconstrued. It almost takes all the fun and beauty out of words. Almost – but not quite – because I know that even my sterilized, lifeless words will reach at least someone. And maybe do a little bit of good in any way they can.

That’s how my words feel. Sterilized, lifeless, shut into little boxes of “this is politically correct” and “this will be okay if your boss finds it someday” and “this is the way you’re supposed to feel about things.” The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle has fundamentally changed the way I write, at least in this venue, at least over these past few weeks. and that scares me.

I know there will always be a space for my words whenever they come roaring back to life. I hope to find that space someday. I do not know where it is right now.


NOTE: This is not at all related to anything that has happened surrounding this site, my experience at Institute, etc. It’s just some thoughts on a Saturday night spent lesson planning, and a week spent in a world far more difficult than anything I could have imagined.

2 Responses

  1. houstonheart

    Thank you so much for this. Seriously. Your post was spot-on and I really appreciate your advice in this comment. Your advice/wisdom is something I truly respect :)

  2. Kayla

    Your feelings are VERY much how I felt my first year as a CM. I just finished my commitment and there were days even my second year I felt this. I encourage you to read this post (http://kayla21.teachforus.org/2011/10/29/would-like-the-truth-from-past-tfaers/) about halfway into my commitment year one. I think there is a fear that TFA will find this or our bosses and it will work against us. But I encourage you to be honest and write how you really feel. Because at times like this it helps realizing you’re not alone and there are at least a handful of other people feeling exactly like you do.

    It’s true, things are going to be different. Not as many spontaneous nights and having a good portion of your mind consumed with TFA and teaching for the next few months. The first few months are really about survival. Do the BEST that you can while keeping yourself healthy in whatever way that means. As long as you’re giving your best for your students and taking care of you, that’s ALL you can do. Don’t let ANYONE ANYONE ANYONE make you feel different.

    Hang in there. So many others feel like you. And don’t forget…this lifestyle is VERY abnormal to anything else you will probably ever experience.

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

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