Teach Houston

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Jun 30 2013

ready to re-tackle

And with that, I’m ready to dive back in.

I had to make a concerted effort to get to this point, I really did. Saturday I did literally nothing related to TFA, teaching, the achievement gap, culturally-responsive teaching, behavior management, lesson planning, or worrying about my students’ future lives. Perhaps this makes me a bad teacher but at this point in my development as a teacher, I think that’s what was necessary.

I got fingerprinted for my new school district in the morning, then headed over to the Houston Pride festival with friends to watch a friend of mine sing live. She was great, the atmosphere was great, hanging out in the non-TFA world was great. Pride was especially alive/crazy this year as the Supreme Court decision was only a few days ago. It was wonderful to see a cooler, more alternative side of Houston. and it was wonderful that so many LGBT couples felt comfortable showing public displays of affection – I only wish things could get to a place where they could be comfortable with that the other 364 days of the year.

I spent about three hours in the 105-degree direct sunlight (I feel pretty fried right now) and then headed to a friend’s apartment for an after-Pride pool party. Afterwards, I rushed back for dinner with an old friend. Many margaritas were had & many life things were discussed. It’s always wonderful to be around people who knew what you were like before TFA, who can remind you of who you were before TFA. I really tried to discuss meaningful life things that don’t relate to teaching; I want to preserve a part of myself who can talk about meaningful life things that don’t relate to teaching. All I do here is talk about teaching (especially since I’m surrounded by TFA CMs and staff members 24/7) so the chance to take a break from that is always refreshing. Our dinner was almost two hours long and it just reminded me of how important it is to keep up my pre-TFA friendships – for the sake of my own sanity and for the sake of amazing relationships that shouldn’t be left by the wayside as I get swept up into the TFA tide.

I ended the evening with a brief TFA-friends reunion and then went to bed, this time for EIGHT AND A HALF HOURS. It was glorious. As much as I say the physical part of Institute doesn’t get to me, it probably does; I would imagine five hours of sleep a night can cause stress, anxiety, and negative thinking. My “action item” for the week ahead (in addition to my actual TAL action items) is to be better at time management, so I can get more sleep and get to a more positive mindset. One other thing. I tried to get enough sleep Friday night but I was up far too late post-bars-with-TFA-friends. And drinking doesn’t make for good sleep. I need to watch out for this as well. It’s nice to unwind but I only have two nights of the week to catch up on my sleep deficit, so it’s stupid to waste one of those nights with not-good life choices.

I started off this morning with some errands and then brunch at a friend’s home. It was brunch the way brunch when you’ve just graduated college is supposed to be, with a variety of homemade food and not a lot of air conditioning and good friends and wondering if you’re really old enough to be having people over for brunch in the first place. I’ve spent the rest of the time since then calling parents. I’m calling parents for a variety of reasons: to introduce myself, to learn about their goals for their children this summer, to share my goals for their children this summer, to talk about behavior (positive & negative), to just set a foundation for more communication later on. I was initially reticent about this mainly because I hate talking on the phone. I know, it’s weird, but I’ve always hated it and so I guess this is just one of those things you have to get over when you become an adult. I’d thought a lot about what I wanted to say to parents beforehand but the gist of it is that I am 100% on-board with whatever they think is necessary to achieve their (and their child’s) goals. I want parents to feel like I’m a partner and not just someone who happens to spend the day with their kids. I want parents to know they can contact me at any time and that I value their opinion tremendously. I respect them for all that they do to keep their children in school and I admire them for their dedication towards helping their students succeed.

So here we are. I’m about to head to the pool for an hour with my future roommate (also a CM who is desperate for a work break) and then I’ll spend tonight lesson planning, reading, and practicing for tomorrow. My room is clean, my thoughts are organized, my sleep deficit is a little bit less than it used to be. I’ve finally figured out OSAT (the data tracker all Institute CMs use). I got a non-teaching book from Barnes & Noble to clear my head. I feel ready to dive back in. I’m only teaching for three days this week (because of Fourth of July) and it’s funny – I don’t even know what to do with myself for the three days I’ll have off. I’m not used to having this much free time. I might go to a water park. That seems appropriately summer-y.


I stumbled upon this Doctor Who quote today and I think it nicely sums up what I’m trying to achieve for the week ahead:

“The way I see it, every life is a pile of good things and bad things. The good things don’t always soften the bad things, but vice versa, the bad things don’t necessarily spoil the good things or make them unimportant.”

It’s certainly easy to look around Institute and see the bad things, but I want to challenge myself to let the good things keep me grounded. Life is, at its core, good – and the next few weeks (as difficult as they will be) should reflect that.

2 Responses

  1. G

    The best thing you can do is take a weekend day and make it 100% about you…no lesson planning, no work talk. When you start working in the fall, you’ll need to do the same thing. It won’t be easy but it is necessary to maintain clarity (and your sanity).

  2. jj cm

    I am excited for you and the growth you are making at institute. I struggled quite a bit during institute and spent a lot of energy trying to keep my head above water and to keep everyone from realizing how difficult classroom management, marrying my philosophies with tfa’s, constant deadlines and feedback, and starting a new life were for me at that time. You are tackling these head on, and the lessons will be a great foundation. I’m also so glad you are invested in your current students and families rather than waiting for your fall placement to build those skills. The kids whose parents you spoke to will know, and it should peak their interest. Keep taking care of yourself…sounds like you’re doing just the right things!

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

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