Thursday, July 4, 2013

Striving Forward for every little Kaylee

I have never been this intensely busy and stressed in my entire life. There are so many things I wish I could have reflected on in this blog over the last four weeks but haven't been able to just because I am always so. very. tired. But now that it's the 4th of July and we don't have school today or tomorrow, I have a little bit more wiggle room. 

These last few weeks of teaching have not been what I had expected them to be. From Day 1 of having kids in my classroom I have struggled with managing the classroom and behavior, and teaching in a way that engages the students and keeps their interest. (Honestly, I've never been made to feel boring so often as I have in the last three weeks. Engaging 2nd graders in math and even reading apparently does not come naturally to me.)

Anyway, I've really struggled with balancing management and teaching. I honestly don't feel like I've been a good teacher for my summer school kids, and I can honestly say I think I'm one of the people struggling the most getting into teaching, at least out of all the TFA corps members at my school. So that's been pretty hard for me. I thought that with all my experience at the library and in Mozambique I wouldn't struggle so much. And what's worse is that I know my summer school kids need a good teacher. Oh, how they need a good teacher. 

So, I've really been fighting a lot of feelings of self-doubt too over the last few weeks, wondering if I should even be here and wondering if I am really just doing my kids more harm than good by being here in their classroom. I love my kids so much, and I hate to think that I'm letting them down. There's little Kaylee, this tiny little girl who is already so far behind in everything. She's starting 2nd grade this fall and doesn't even recognize most of her numbers and can hardly read a word. (What 1st grade teacher passed her, is my question.) And there's Delana who's aunt forgets to pick her up because she's drunk 'too much kool-aid and has to take a nap' in Delana's words. I could go on. Each of my kiddos has a story that makes me desperate to be a good teacher for them. But Kaylee and Delana for me put a face to why I so want to be a good teacher. I love them and I hate to think I'm failing them.

But yesterday, someone said something to me that really made a difference in my outlook. At the end of the day everyday a couple times a week we have this all-school shout out time, where all the corps members who are teaching and the staff who are supporting them congregate in a room and share 'shout outs,' or encouraging words for someone else on our team. At the end of the day yesterday, Blair, one of the TFA staff people, gave me a shout out for being one of the people who's most committed to improving that he's seen. He said that the difference he's seen between someone who ends up a good teacher and someone who ends up a great teacher is that drivenness to improve and become a better teacher. He said that that is the kind of teacher who will really make a difference in the lives of our kiddos. 

I don't say that all to toot my own horn, but it was kind of an epiphany for me. I realized I need to stop spending so much energy on comparing myself to other teachers and wondering if I measure up and start devoting all of that energy to becoming a better teacher. I may not be a great teacher now (or even a good teacher), but someday I will be and I need to keep striving toward that goal. Because it's not about me and my teacher ego. It's about the little kiddos like Kaylee and Delana who are already, at age 7, sliding through the cracks in the system that is failing them.

So, even though I'm not a good teacher now, and even though I may not be everything my summer school students need me to be (or even hardly anything that they need me to be), I'm going to keep on striving toward becoming a better teacher for Kaylee and Delana and all  of the Kaylees and Delanas I'll be able to love and teach in the years to come.