with love and squalor

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Feb 01 2011

Inadequacies and otherwise

I’m trying to restrain myself from updating this blog too much, because, at the rate my thoughts have been spinning, I could probably add a post 5 times a day.  And, yet, there’s not really anything too new to report.  I’ve been having lots of daydreams about my future ECE classroom, which has led me to reflect on my own nursery, pre-k, k, and 1-3 grade teachers.  I had a great pre-k teacher, and still remember some of her hijinks (such as walking around leading the class banging a tambourine), and I intend to use some of her tricks (at least, the few I can remember.  Fortunately, this was before we moved to DC, and my family lived in a very small town in North NJ, so my brother had her too, meaning my mom remembers quite a bit more about her than either of us).  But one thing that stuck out to me was my first grade teacher.  I just remember she had a poster up in her room, in that classic little kids’ teacher poster style, with bubble letters, proudly displaying President Clinton as our nation’s President.

Strange to believe that, when I was in first grade, President Clinton was the President.  We’ve only had one (interminable seeming and awful, of course) presidency between his and President Obama’s.  And, of course, I intend to get a poster like this for my own classroom, featuring Obama.  So, anyway, long story short: I AM REALLY YOUNG! I graduated high school a year early, and so am even younger than I might be otherwise.  And I’m entering into TFA right after having graduated college this spring.  Basically, one of my main worries about potentially having older students is that they would somehow know that I was only a couple (if that) years older than most of them.  I’m going to be 21 when I start teaching.  So, I’m kind of relieved I’m going to have young kids, who, although I’m sure will pester me over my age, will have no idea how young I actually am.  I mean, if I had high school students, I’m pretty sure I would watch the same TV shows as them (not that I really have time for that, but still, occasionally), listen to a lot of the same music, and wear similar clothes.  Maybe that doesn’t matter, but it might wound my own sense of my legitimacy as their authority figure.  It’s not that I think my age really matters all that much, but, as a woman, and someone new to the teaching game, I don’t want yet another thing making me feel somehow inadequate.  (Not that I think women are inadequate!  I’m just anti-patriarchy.)

Anyway… No one commented on my last post about the Praxis II, which has me pretty concerned.  I really don’t want to go into this test blind.  I mean, what if I don’t pass?  It’s possible.  I don’t know basic geography anymore or even really basic science.  Heheh.  I’m going to be home for the 20th Anniversary Summit, and it’s located in DC, conveniently, so I think I am going to go.  And my wonderfully supportive boyfriend has a couple of friends who work in the DC public school system (not with TFA), and he said we can definitely arrange for me to sit in some classes, which, I’m gathering, is the best preparation there is.  Yay!

7 Responses

  1. holeymoleymemphis

    I’ll also be 21 when I start teaching high schoolers (eep!) next fall. I definetly feel it’ll be a challenge to portray myself as someone who knows what they were doing.
    Also, in askmolly’s og, who also taught elementary, she shared a story in which the kid asked her her age, and she asked back how old do you think I am? and he said, I dunno, 40? So I would agree that to a five year old, anyone over 20 is the same age, and that age is ancient

  2. rundekm

    I’m going to be 21 too when I start teaching Elementary in the fall in Phoenix! I’m scared for a lot of the same reasons, so I really appreciate this blog post–I’ve been to scared to actually voice those concerns quite yet!

    Good luck to you on your TFA journey! :)

  3. Wess

    I was 21, too! And everyone called it. Coworkers, parents… even my 6th graders at Institute. (And on the 2nd day of school in my region, one of my kids asked me “You fresh outta college, miss?”)
    While I don’t think young is a problem in and of itself, inexperience definitely is. I never took the “fake it ’till you make it” advice seriously, because I knew I would always be more comfortable being myself–problem is, teacher being more comfortable does not translate to students taking teacher more seriously. Being “myself” was not being “teacher with authority”–and I had no way of knowing what “teacher with authority” felt like, so of course I should have faked it! (fook it?)

    … All that said… I teach 10th grade. So don’t freak out. Pretty much anyone over 17 is ancient when you’re 5.

  4. aea107

    Thanks everyone! That’s probably true, I am going to have to figure out how to present myself as older for the benefit of parents/my coworkers more than my kids. I definitely need to update my wardrobe, for one thing… Thinking about this entry after I posted it led me to realize that I have virtually no professional clothes. I would say 95% of my skirts don’t even pass the “finger tips rule,” probably because, at my college, there’s no such thing as a dress code, to the point where it’s okay to go to class clothed in a blanket. Ah well.

    You’re right! It’s all about respect. Looking forward to the challenge!

  5. I agree with adhelmick. I was 21 when I started teaching my 8th graders (a comfortable 6ish year difference) and then I moved to high school (a much closer 4 year difference in some cases) and it was always fine. I think as long as you treat the students with respect then they are going to do the same to you, but make sure you figure out what respect means to them- it’s likely similar but also different than what it means to you, especially in Baltimore! I am in my third year teaching in Baltimore City and it has been a great experience, and to “keep it 100″ (as our students say), I told my students my age every year on my bday (November) because by then we had developed a relationship where I could share that special information wit them. With your little ones, I think you will definitely be fine, and like wingofmadness said, you may have to do more ‘convincing’ with parents/co-workers/administrators than you will with your students.

  6. adhelmick

    I was 21 my first year of teaching and my best advice is to “fake it till you make it” haha it is what I was taught in college. If you act young and portray yourself as a young person than more than likely parents will question your ability ( I wouldn’t worry about the children, they really could care less about how old you are…a double digit in general is a big deal to a 4-5 year old!) My biggest challenge was my administration, my principal told me from day one I had to prove to them and my parents that I was qualified to teach whether I was 21 or not. So I acted like a big girl and didn’t even mention my age. My coworkers all thought I was like 24 or so because of the way I carried myself.

    I hope that helps with your fears…I promise the children won’t care!

    • wingofmadness

      Speaking as a parent, no one wants a rookie teaching his kid, so try very hard not to give out a rookie “vibe,” hard as that may be. On the other hand, most (kids and parents) respond positively to enthusiasm and an obvious love of what you’re doing.
      “Fake it til you make it” can apply to almost any job and is excellent advice!

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