Let the madness begin?

I’m sitting here at my own computer, hooked up to a cable line again (thank GOD; I’m so internet dependent it’s not even funny), a beach towel wrapped around my legs, but I’m not in Miami any more. Yes, the 62 members of the 2004 corps have migrated North this summer, as avian species do, although I doubt that the Bronx is the destination for many migratory birds. We’re camped out at Fordham University in frigidly air-conditioned dorms, so the beach towel at my waist is doubling as a warmth providing garment in the absence of sweat pants. Who thought it would be cold where I would be this summer? Clearly I underestimated the ability of Teach for America to refrigerate my living and working environments. I need some sweaters.

In the meantime, I’ll wake up multiple times during the night due to an indistinct mix of anxiety and chilliness, and stare incredulously out my window at the faint predawn light that I saw at 5:00 this morning. Fifteen minutes more of sleep, I swear, that’s all. Speaking of which, I should be hitting the proverbial sack pretty soon, but I feel the need to at least post something, because I’ve been so out of touch, and today has been intense. A quick shout-out to Rachael and Kaitlyn, as well as Alex…I’m not neglecting you, I just haven’t had any reasonable hours to make phone calls lately.

John F Kennedy High School, 5,000 students, 8 floors, 40 English teachers, 6 assistant principles, and 70+ brand spankin’ new TFA teachers this summer. If i think the word “inspiring” to myself one more time in the next 6 hours, I’m going to shoot myself, for serious. Yet, despite my inner protestations, I have to admit that it was pretty empowering to FINALLY talk about concrete lessons, what these kids have to know at the end of the summer to pass their Regents exams, and why we’re actually here in New York for the summer.

With all the stupid evaluations, personal reflections, and pedagogical theory that we’ve gotten thrown at us, not to mention a healthy dose of “be humble” alongside “you’re the best and the brightest” (just to make things consistent…you know), it’s alarmingly easy to forget why we all decided to join “the Movement,” (capital M required) as it’s known, and withdraw into a self-suffering little ball of ego and defensive id. It’s about helping students learn, about being an effective force in the classroom for others, and remembering the communities that we SERVE, not bitching about what’s going on in our lives, what’s happening to us, and all of that shit.

Note to self: re-read all of this in about 9 days’ time, when you’ve been getting up at 5:00 all week to ride in delayed yellow busses so that you can stand around in heels for 10 hours straight.

But anyway, we had this *amazing* opening ceremony tonight, chock full of the inspirational (shit, there I go again) propaganda that still gets to me despite my more cynical views on indoctrination, stories about real teachers, real schools, and real people that CAN achieve “significant gains” in the classroom. The founder of TFA (a Princeton grad that wrote the mission statement as her senior thesis, how fucking cool is that!??! Seeing your work actually make it into public policy? Almost makes me want to go to law school. Okay, just kidding.), some alums, and a few current corps members had really amazing things to say about trust, the role of teachers in society AND in education, and all sorts of warm fuzzy “oh, it’s hard as hell but the job will love you back” kinds of anecdotes that are hard to ignore. Even hearing clearly ex post facto Journal Entry presentations from East coast urban teachers got to me, and the closing line ” [insert student name here] is why I teach for America” that every story recited didn’t sound cheesy, it sounded sincere. What am I coming to when I can’t tell the difference between literary devices and my own emotional reaction? Sad, you are so sad in your lack of detachment, Thea.

Sigh, alas, accept your near-conversion and get on with it. 4.8 weeks left, and you can do it. Just got to get some sleep in there somewhere…


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