Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Learning to Be Flexible

I knew coming into Teach For America that I'd have to be flexible, because there are forces working bigger than myself. So many more moving parts than even I know about (and I had the awesome opportunity to work for the organization last summer). I just didn't think I'd have to internalize the "Be Flexible" bit already.

But the picture for me has changed a little, as there's now a high likelihood that I'll be teaching secondary school math this coming year, and not social studies like I'd been planning. It turns out that there are more social studies corps members than positions available, and they are asking us to interview in other areas. I've chosen math -- mainly because I really can't teach science. I mean, I'd be a joke of a science teacher (and really wouldn't feel excited about teaching my subject), and that'd be doing a huge injustice to my kids.

Besides, math doesn't seem too bad. It should be easier to gather data since, like, math is like, all about data, right?

Of course, all I can really think about right now are the stupid things, like, so much for accumulating all those atlases, and, uhhh, I have to retake the Praxis?! Say whaaaaa?!

Hooray for another standardized test. Hopefully I'll be able to squeeze time in during Institute to brush up on my derivates and ... stuff.

Other than that news, today was a solid day of discussion and reflection. Lots of introspective things, which, lemme tell you, I love. Love, love, love. And it was so helpful to be able to talk about our insecurities and anxieties about teaching in these communities where many of us do not share the same racial and/or economic backgrounds as our students. What an eye-opening, humbling, and fascinating discussion.

And when community leaders joined us for a panel discussion in the evening about how to work and become a part of our Black Belt communities, I was in heaven. Because if there is anything I am prepared to do, it is to become a football-loving Southern Baptist for two years.

Not really.

But kinda.

I am so excited to embrace the community that I'm living in, going to their sports games, shopping in their stores, and attending their churches. Because one thing everyone keeps stressing is that if the kids know you care, and are invested in not only their education but also their lives, then they'll respond to that and respect your leadership.

Of course, church plays a huge role in the rural communities in this area, sometimes being the only force keeping it together. And while recognizing our diverse backgrounds and understanding that not all of us are Christian or even religious, the community leaders encouraged all of us to become a part of the local churches, attend them frequently, and really enlist them as another partner in our work to propel our students forward to great gains.

And last, but definitely not least, Alabamans love their football. So, since I went to a giant football college, I feel I can relate. I understand that culture and I can smack talk like the rest of them (or rather, will be able to smack talk once I learn a bit more. Homework is definitely needed in this area). Though, no matter how much I get pressured by the "War Eagle" and "Roll Tide" cheers around me, I will remain faithfully a Sooner Born, Sooner Bred -- and will start doing my homework STAT to defend that. So any help from you Sooner football fans would be greatly appreciated.

In Peace, Love, and New Experiences,
An Excited New Corps Member

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