Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Jan 26 2014


I haven’t been writing that much this year. The main reason is that I’ve been applying to medical schools, and the time commitment of writing all those applications, sending them in, following up, and interviewing at various places has been absolutely exhausting. I just haven’t had time.

I’m not doing as good a job as last year.

This is not hard to admit, but it’s hard to accept. I’m used to getting better at things, to seeing progress as a continually upward trajectory, so it’s hard to accept that I saw more growth in my kids last year than this year. I think there’s a few reasons for this.

One is that I have missed about 2 weeks of instructional time to fly to various interviews (or get stuck in south Florida with plane cancellations…grrr). It’s hard on the kids (and on me) to be zipping around the country and not there every day.

Another is that I have a very extreme class this year: it’s about 1/3 brilliant gifted, slightly more than 1/3 moderate to severe learning disabilities, and only a bit less than 1/3 approaching a normal bell curve in the middle. It’s hard to keep everybody moving along when they start in different places, learn at different paces, and (for some of them) forget things to varying degrees. My gifted girls are zipping ahead, and I’m pulling from 5th grade math right now because at a certain point for them to be more than a whole unit ahead of everyone else gets unwieldy. But the lower end is seriously struggling, and it slows down the middle group to be waiting for them. Ergo, less progress overall.

A third reason is that there’s been enormous transience in my huge class. I started with 24 (huge for our district), lost 5 and got 6 new ones. Of course, those 6 came in at totally different places, having learned totally different things in various schools, all having to somehow catch up to where we were…

But a big part of it is just that my kids and I just clicked last year. I love my kiddos this year, but for whatever reason, they don’t quite jump on board as much as last year. We have a good class culture and we have fun together, but it’s not the same sense of being driven on a mission to learn as we somehow achieved last year.

Perhaps it’s this sense of ultimately not living up to my own expectations that makes it so hard to be leaving. You never want to leave something feeling as if you could have done better. Maybe that’s part of what’s picking at the back of my mind.

No, that’s not fair. It’s the fact that I’ve built so many connections here, that I have so many friends, that I genuinely care about so many people here, that makes it so hard to leave.

We took our elementary school boys to a high school boys’ basketball game tonight. And there, in one gym, were so many people I care about. My elementary players, many of whom were in last year’s magical class; the high schoolers who I coach in the summer, who are like my little cousins, always messing around and teasing; the high school players, some of whom are summer kids as well; my mentor teacher, who is my best friend out here; the little kids running around, waving because they go to my school; the parents running the Spirit Table, who give me a hug because I coached their kid last year; even the high school coach, who shakes our hands and thanks us for bringing the younger players out.

I’ve told my kids I’m probably leaving. I even told one of my favorite kids from last year. This is a kid I’ve coached for two years, taught for one. I coached her older brother, in school and in the summer. I’ve cheered her on while reading, while multiplying and while playing defense. I’ve hugged her when she cried about not being good at reading, or when her brother picked on her. And when I told her I probably wasn’t going to be here next year (the probably was just to soften the blow, for us both), she got real quiet. Her eyes got big and round. Another kid said he understood, that being a doctor was my dream job and everybody should get to try for their dream job. But she just looked at me, silent, with those big eyes.

I never intended to stay here forever. There is not much of a social life here, not much of a career path, no family here, and so on. There are a million reasons not to stay.

But how do I leave this place?

One Response

  1. Sarah

    Hi, EMinNM! My name’s Sarah, & I’ve spent all of my free time the past day and a half reading your blog from the beginning.
    I’m applying early for the 2015 corps, & would love any insight you could give me on the application process, as well as any other helpful information you wish you would have known when you started this journey!
    Keep up the great work; I’ve loved the blog so far! :)

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In which I muse about New Mexico, teaching, and life in general.

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