The Learning Curve

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Nov 05 2011

Sometimes you have to see it to know it’s not for you

The last month, especially the last week and a half, has been especially difficult for me. It’s been hard to go to work every day, to stay at work for the whole day, and come home to continue working. I haven’t seen a lot of progress and it was shutting me down mentally and emotionally (and eventually physically).

The lack of progress is attributable to several different reasons, including myself. There’ve definitely been things I could have done better that I didn’t, either because I didn’t feel like it or because it hardly seemed worth it. In the last entry I alluded to not being the teacher my students deserved, and if I’m being 100% honest, it’s not always “the learning curve” that makes that so. Sometimes, it’s just me.

This last week was my hardest by far and I began to consider (for the first time) in a very real way what it would look like for me to quit. What would it mean for my self-esteem? Where would I go? How would I pay bills? Would I say in NOLA for the extent of my lease or go back to Texas? What would I do about my TFA-related loose ends?

It was a plunge that felt really, really depressing to take. It’s definitely mortifying considering yourself in a less than positive light: what does it say about me that I’m giving up and going home? Did I try as hard as I could or did I give up when the mountain seemed too high? How much of this current difficulty is self-created and self-sustained? As hard as it is to think about myself with those guiding questions in mind, it’s even harder to consider what the honest answers are. My current difficulty is not entirely self-created, but there’s an element that is. I could be better scheduled with my planning and better executed with my teaching, and those are two things I have no problem admitting but seemingly every problem fixing.

My darkest place yet was yesterday. I left my school’s campus determined to take Monday off exclusively to figure out my immediate future and submit my two weeks’ notice. Today, after a TFA event, I spoke to a fellow teacher at my school who I really respect. She was very frank that she is experiencing difficulties at our school and also considered quitting. She didn’t try to make my decision for me, but she was very honest about what she thinks my skills are as a teacher and a person, and the reality we face day in and day out on our campus. I’m still processing the advice she gave me, but it was incredibly sound and throughout all of the conversations I have had in the last week and all of the really low places my mind has sought out, it is the best I have felt in seemingly forever.

I have no illusions about my life at my school. It’s still going to be incredibly difficult. It’s a violent place and will continue to be, at least in the immediate future, and that sort of environment will continue to be a source of stress. However, I don’t feel so fatalistic about it at this point and I’m setting my sight back onto how I can improve the way I desperately need to in a short amount of time.

Back to the drawing board.

3 Responses

  1. els

    I would definitely take that day off. SLEEP, relax a little bit, feel like a human being first. Then think about teaching. I’ve found that I can’t make sound decisions when I’m in an altered state, and teaching sure puts you into an altered state :).

  2. Randy

    For what its worth, know that there are many, many folks out there who are utterly grateful for the important work you and your fellow corps members are doing.

  3. Wess

    Sometimes you have to do it to know you can.
    We’re rooting for you!

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