with love and squalor

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Jul 07 2011


So, one of my collab members dropped out today.  Let me preface this by restating that, in ECE, there are four members to a collab.  Person A teaches Literacy Block 1, while B assists and C/D are upstairs in session.  Then B teaches Lit Block 2, while A assists, with C/D still upstairs.  Then the kiddos go to lunch, and C/D come down and A/B go up for session.  C teaches Math Block with D assisting, and then D teaches Centers with C assisting.  There is an upwards rotation every week, so I am teaching math this week, and next week I will be teaching centers.  Only now, person B has quit and so I will be teaching BOTH math and centers next week.

I am not going to pass judgment on the person who withdrew from TFA, even though it was only our second day of teaching, because I don’t know her beyond this limited time working with her.  I will say, though, that things are about to get a lot more difficult for our collab.  For one thing, each us has to teach 2 blocks now without an assistant (we have our SMT ((that’s Student Mentor Teacher, who teaches the kids at our school during the school year)) but she isn’t a TFA teacher/can’t really take on the role of a CM and still has to observe us, too).  Assistants are kind of important in ECE.  Most public school regions have them for pre-k.  Let me put it this way:  We have 14 3-year-olds (some on the very young end).  Managing them all is not a possibility for an individual who has never set foot in a classroom before during their first month of teaching no matter how much of a superstar they might be.  The kids have been responding well to my management so far, so teaching two blocks doesn’t really bother me (although I wish I didn’t have to do it my second week and I know it is going to be very difficult both for me and for the children), but I can’t say I’m thrilled about having double the lesson planning to do.  I mean, I’ve been working SO efficiently and productively that I’ve been able to go to bed early, go home on the weekend, and talk to my boyfriend/family every day.  But this hasn’t been easy.  I can’t really imagine now having double the work and frankly I am fighting back tears just imaging it.  Being with the kids twice as long seems like a blessing, but doing twice the work after hours–even if it will help me in the long run–is the last thing I need right now.  TFA has said since we got here, “bend like a willow.”  This seems particularly applicable for our collab right now and is decent advice, but there’s only so far a willow can bend before it gets uprooted.

But of course, the people this affects the most are the children.  Today was our second day of teaching and Institute is hard.  But our kids are so good, and smart, and each of them is so different.  Some are struggling, some are extremely proficient, and many are somewhere in between.  Little children need routine and reliability and many of them do not get it.  Too often, ECE aged kids are walked away from because working with little kids is tough.  If you think that teaching pre-k is playing with blocks and holding hands all day, you are very mistaken.  If you think lesson planning for ECE is writing about show and tell, again, you’re very mistaken.  This is hard, important work, and this event has shown me that more than anything else could.  I want to be there for my kids more than ever because I’m seeing firsthand that other people won’t be.

While I was talking to my CMA about this at the end of the day, one of my girls–our star student, actually, who our SMT described as “the class mother”–who was still in school because she goes to the daycamp after class, ran up to me, said, “Hi, teacher!” and gave me a huge hug before running away.  That one moment is what I will hold onto tonight while I’m scrambling to do twice the amount of work that I think I’m capable of.

2 Responses

  1. While this is clearly not what you want, it is such a blessing. Having a kink thrown into your routine when you’re not yet on solid footing is exactly what you need right now: 1) because it’s a lot what a first year of teaching feels like and 2) because as you power through it, you can look back on the experience and draw upon it for strength.

    I think it’s good that you aren’t passing judgment on this person in your co-lab who left. I’m sad to hear it simply for the fact that she may have not given herself enough credit. Or maybe something extraordinary happened, completely unrelated to anything in the classroom, and she would be taken away.

    Also, why would you be doing double the work? Institute is filled with talented, driven people – step out into the hallway and see what other ECE teachers are planning. Share and swap plans, even if they are not in your colab or at your school.

    “Bend like a willow” isn’t decent advice – it’s exceptional. It’s what will be required of you in ways that you can’t yet imagine.

    It’s clear you care about your kids. You won’t snap; you will break your back with love. And if you’re uprooted, you’ll simply plant again.

    • aea107

      Thank you so much for these kind words. I really appreciate it.

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