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October 13, 2005

13 Outubro 2005

I think I’ve pinpointed what it is that is keeping me from feeling
stimulated by my teaching job:  it prevents me from getting out in
the city and observing and experiencing its pulses, its people, and its
myriad, diverse places. 

For those of you who don’t know, I have been struggling with the
decision I made to join Teach For America.  Although I enjoy
certain aspects of the profession, such as being on my feet all day and
spending time with children, whose energy and innocence I enjoy, I feel
that the daily task of planning and preparing lessons just isn’t for
me.  As the paragraph above relates, I feel very confined in my
job as a teacher.  The only places in the city I am getting to
know are my school and my apartment when what I really want to be doing
is getting to know whole neighborhoods.  I finally came to this
realization yesterday when I was on my way to a day-long professional
development workshop in southwest Philly.  It was the first
weekday since I’ve been here that I was able to take public
transportation to and from my day’s destination and to observe and be a
part of the daily flow of people in the city.  Doing so brought
back the sense of stimulation I experienced when I participated in the
Philly Field Project in college, during which I was out and about the
Belmont neighborhood every day, interacting with, observing, and
reflecting on its citizens and their spaces.

What I want is not to be a distanced, scientific observer of life in
the city; a key part of what I wrote in the sentence above is
“INTERACTING with.”  I want to be in the midst of Philadelphians
and their problems, and while teaching at an urban school certainly
fits this description, it does not fit my exact desire, which is to be
OUT and about–not just moving about my classroom, but moving about a
neighborhood, getting to know citizens of various ages and abilities,
and acting as somewhat of a liaison between their culture and situation
and the so-called culture of power, to which I have access but most
Philadelphians don’t. 

So this week I find myself back in the struggle of making a decision
about Teach For America.  Do I continue teaching my second
graders, who I adore and desire to see succeed, or do I resign from my
position, knowing that the time and resources the school invests in me
will not yield the return they are hoping for (that is, a teacher who
sticks with them and provides some consistency from year to
year)?  I thought I had already made the decision two weeks ago to
finish out the year, but after yesterady I find myself mired in doubt
again.  Do I stay?  Do I go?  I don’t know.

I welcome your comments.

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2 Comments
  1. Cori:  Teaching is a revolutionary act.  My guess is that you’ll be teaching regardless of whether you are in or outside of the classroom.  love, Kristen SB

  2. Hi Cori,  it seems like you’re facing a real (and very common) dilemma that has become all too familiar to most of us in TFA.  As a new teacher, you oftentimes struggle with reinventing the wheel to make it perfect for your second graders.  Learning to do something so new and overwhelming does indeed demand your focus and attention in a central place.  I applaud you for your dedication thus far to the movement of your students.  They deserve you and every ounce of your soul that you pour into your commitment to them
    I encourage you to push through your commitment.  In my experience, I have found that it is indeed possible not only to pull your head above the water, but to flex your body and move through the ocean.  Don’t abandon the shore so soon!  As you grow in your experience as a teacher, you find the corners to cut to make time to do the things you so desire.  Give it time, let yourself be central and focused for the sake of your second graders.  This is the most crucial period in their lives- where they make or break it, if you will.  And as you learn and grow with them, you’ll also be afforded more and more time to develop yourself and the community for which you work.  You can indeed extend yourself throughout Philadelphia by engaging with the families and community partners of your students.  As you have more time, reach out to community programs that will benefit your students.
    I appreciate your honest, and identify strongly with what you’re saying.  I encourage you to stay in the game and push yourself to handle what you can now, and be patient for the time when you have the time to grow into the community.

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