with love and squalor

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Sep 29 2011

september

today while i was idly googling tfa, i found out that its early childhood initiative has only been around since 2006.  i have to say, this program’s relatively short lifespan, compared to the entirety of teach for america’s existence, doesn’t really take me by surprise, but it also makes me kind of nervous.  i think most people teaching ece through teach for america have probably had pangs of discomfort similar to mine throughout their tenure (maybe not.  maybe i am wrong about that.  i guess i shouldn’t generalize).  i suppose i think that some of teach for america’s goals and taglines don’t translate very well into an early childhood classroom (especially pre-k),  “100% compliance 100% of the time” being the most notable of them, but others, too.  when i met with my mtld in august to talk about my “big goals” she asked me, why 80%?  why not 100%?

well, the answer, to me, was pretty obvious.  because 100% of my students can barely even formulate words out of their little mouths, that’s why.  children develop at astoundingly disparate rates.  some transition into school much more easily than others.  perhaps, by the end, they will all be at the same level, give or take some extremes.  but i just think some of the teach for america mindset prioritizes data-driven, objective gains that are much easier and more important to prove in a high school or middle school classroom than they are with a group of 3 and 4 year olds.  am i making excuses?  maybe.  i don’t really know.  i think my region has a  pretty well-established ece program, but i still feel like i’m floundering.  the word i like to use is “incompetent,” which is also the word i used when i cornered one of my grad school professors (who was also my institute CS) after class last week to find out if my anxiety, depression, and overall hopelessness were normal reactions to being a first year teacher.  (her answer?  basically, yes.  but she said it gets better after thanksgiving.)

today while i was making emergency lesson plans that are due tomorrow, and working on what i’m going to be giving my kids to do tomorrow (fridays are still pretty crazy), i had this sick feeling in my stomach like, “i am really sick of this.”  not the kids, not even really teaching, but the planning lessons, navigating curricula, searching through bullshit and useless resources trying to find something i feel like can work for my kids, making my own stuff, and feeling like no matter what i find or make, it’s never good enough.  i feel like i’m wading through a swamp blindfolded with giant ropes pulling me in all different directions and alligators and anacondas at my ankles and i have two broken legs and there’s no sign of land, or life, anywhere around.  …i haven’t felt this much anxiety and just… exhaustion… since i was in high school.  i guess one thing i really didn’t take advantage of or realize enough in college was how easygoing and uncomplicated and enjoyable everything was or had the potential to be.  i slept til noon, i stayed up late, i adored my classes and professors, and i just kind of did whatever i wanted and it was awesome.  now i have so many responsibilities i feel like i’m wearing a super tight, child’s size t-shirt that’s cutting off all my circulation and no matter how hard i try i can’t rip it off.  (i’m full of creative, meaningful sensory language tonight.)  it’s not really the best way to feel.

with that being said, there are high highs and low lows.  this profession feels so bipolar (i don’t mean that in a derogatory or offensive way, just that my feelings are so intense and powerful and can change so unpredictably).  i’ll have one day that feels awesome and like i’m getting the hang of it, and the next day feels horrible and i want to quit.  or not even day-by-day.  hour-by-hour.  minute-by-minute.  i do feel like i am getting better.  i see improvement both from myself and from my children.  we’ve developed a good classroom culture.  we’re working every day.  we’re on task almost all the time.  i only have two serious behavior problems and i believe one of them stems solely from slow development (the other is more interesting, but he keeps me on my toes, at least).  my students seem to love me and some of them even tell me that now.  my para is still great, although i feel guilty occasionally for her being stuck with me, a clueless first-year teacher, and i also sometimes feel embarrassed because she is always there to see when i f everything up or plan boring lessons or do things that are too repetitive.

there’s some stuff i really need to work on.  getting more movement, music, and tactile lessons into my planning.  if any ece people reading this know any resources for that, get @ me plz.  i also need to work on my patience.  as much as i am starting to love this age group, my children frustrate the hell out of me sometimes.  like, i hate it when they come up to me while i’m in the middle of teaching and ask me to button/unbutton/tie/untie/snap/unsnap, WHATEVER.  it’s so unbelievably annoying, but i know that they’re too young to understand how rude it is.  so i need to work on not getting angry at them.  i do yell sometimes.  i also need to get more stuff on my boards and take better care of my room.  i’m just trying to keep my head down so as not to attract any unwanted attention from my school’s administration.

overall, day-to-day, i guess things are going all right.  i’ve read a lot of posts on here lately about other CMs needing to regain routine, health, and balance in their personal lives and i feel the same way.  i’m still not exercising, sleeping enough, or doing enough fun stuff.  i still don’t enjoy the personal time i do take anywhere near as much as i wish i could.  um, anyway, this post has gotten really rambly so i’m going to cut myself off.  i hope when i look back on all of this, i won’t feel like i wasted my time, or my kids’.  i hope i won’t feel like i’m pledging my life, trying to make a difference, and not actually making one.  i hope i won’t be miserable and hopeless for the next two years.  i’m looking at ph.d programs to propel myself back into academia as soon as this is all over.  is that a bad attitude?  i just need some “big goals” for myself, you know?

2 Responses

  1. 2 points for the use of “anaconda” in your swamp metaphor. I don’t know why, it just tickled my fancy.

    kbye.

    • aea107

      it was going to be python but then i thought i would use some alliteration~

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