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October 23, 2005

23 Outubro 2005

I’ve been mired in confusion since my last entry over a week ago, when
I expressed a commitment to continue teaching for remainder of the
year.  Mired in confusion, that is, until last Thursday, October
20, when I decided to reverse my decision and NOT finish out the school
year.  After having decided the week before to stick out the year,
a horrible, sinking feeling settled into my stomach and haunted me
every morning on my way to work, and every evening as I spent my time
preparing lessons that I didn’t care to teach.  I just couldn’t do
it, couldn’t stick it out.  The thought of spending the next seven
months of my life doing something that doesn’t motivate me and simply
doesn’t fit me was too much
to bear.  Time is precious, and I want to use mine in a way that
contributes both to my happiness as well as to the happiness of others
around me–and teaching simply wasn’t contributing to my happiness.

For the umpteenth time on my way home from work on Thursday, I broke
down into tears while talking to my mom on the phone.  The inner
anguish of making a decision that could negatively affect the lives of
20 young people as well as other educators at my school was torturing
me on the inside, but my mom helped me to realize that the impact would
likely be even more negative if I were to stay at my school and were
not able to maintain a happy face every day for the rest of the year;
my kids and colleagues would begin to see through my facade, and my
negative energy would be no good for anyone.  Like a knowing,
loving mother, she wisely discerned that my last entry was more of an
attempt to convince myself that I should do this than it was a genuine
desire to continue.  Dave Riley, my
former professor, former boss, and lifelong mentor, also helped me to
feel confident in my new decision to resign, and Paul has been equally
supportive.

I know this new decision is the right decision–I feel it in my
gut.  I also feel it in my mind and spirit, as I feel so much
lighter, so much freer, and so much more like me after
having made it.  I feel relieved and released.  Now I can
begin to pursue other jobs and activities that are equally as
meaningful as teaching but that are more suitable to my own personality
and skills.  Teaching second graders just isn’t me.  Joining
Teach For America was an expensive, but informative, misjudgment. 
Now it’s time to move on, using what I have learned about myself to
make a more informed next step forward.  I’m intrigued by numerous
opportunities I’ve encountered on Philadelphia’s Craig’s List and
already feel more hopeful about the coming year than I ever have since
I moved here in August.  I love my kids and I’ll miss my kids, but I can’t be their teacher.

Wish me luck tomorrow, when I will face my principal to tell her I’m going to resign…

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One Comment
  1. Hello Bungus!  So it sounds like things are going pretty rough.  That’s not good.  My thoughts and prayers are with you wherever you decide to go from October 24th on.  I know you’ve decided to move on from TFA but I do want to say a bit about my own experience even if it only helps you have some closure about what you’ve been doing for the past few months.  Teaching is a hard thing.  The entire first year of teaching anywhere is a monumental task that requires a ton of planning.  Everyone I talked to when leaving PSU told me that the first year of teaching was the worst year, and they’re right.  The planning time is rediculous.  I found myself moving to Newport, PA, where I was given the task of teaching grades 1-6 elementary general music.  I never expected to be in Newport, I never expected to teach general music, and I never wanted to teach kids who were that young.  What’s more is that my job is only a long term sub job.  I started off my year by realizing that my classroom had no textbooks, and that there was no curriculum for what I was about to teach.  I had no idea what a second grade, third grade, fouth or sixth grade student should know, or what they were capable of learning.  I didn’t know what they already knew and once again, had no resources with which to teach.  Sticky situation.  What a perdicament.  Dismal.  Bad.  I had do research about what I would teach, had to plan a lot outside of school, and ask others in my field for help.  As I did these things I realized that 1)  others I graduated with were in the same situation I was in and I was doing better than them, 2)  that planning outside of school had to be limited to a certain amount of time.  The children deserved my best, but that I am in no way perfect and could never give them a perfect music education – expecially in my first year of teaching where I was figuring a lot out for myself.  It didn’t occur to me that they don’t know what they’re supposed to learn.  I don’t know if TFA has a set curriculum that you have to strictly adhere to, but you’re allowed a lot of freedom with music.  Presenting the correct information is important, but the way in which you present it is even more important.  Teachers are lucky that once you get used to being in front of a class, it gets easier.  Limiting your planning time can help you keep you sane.  3)  I had to get involved in my school district outside of my classroom responsibilities to really feel as if I belonged in Newport.  It’s a small town in the middle of nowhere.  Driving to school and being confined to just my classroom wouldn’t be any way to live.  After I got involved as assistant marching band director I was able to get to know a lot of the high school students.  I really am more comfortable with that age group, and helping allowed me to be a part of their world.  Marching band also got me involved with the Newport football atmosphere.  Going to football games connected me to the families of most of the students in my classes.  It seemed as if everyone wanted to talk to me since their kids had told them that they loved music class!  I started getting invited to church activites by different families in the district.  This is a economically depressed area and I’ve been able to talk to several families about their children.  In addition to assistant marching band director, I took on the role of musical director of the jr. high musical.  Doing so has made so much of a difference in my life.  I’ve gotten very close to a large group of the older elementary kids.  I know their parents and the kids really trust me.  I have no idea how to direct a musical, but being one of three directors has helped me to learn.  Its given me so much time with the kids helping them to do something that they really want to do.  It’s worthwhile and I’m making a difference.  When I look back to life at the beginning of my time here as compared to now, I”m shocked.  I’ve become so involved in a this tiny town.  People know me everywhere I go and always stop me to talk.  I guess the point is that having something outside of the classroom/planning is important.  It’s important to invest yourself in something that connects you to where you live.  It’s also really important not to kill yourself by planning.  Lessons don’t have to be perfect.  I have to go to sleep now but you should give me a call.  814-574-3974.  It’d be great to hear from you!  One last thing.  It does sound like your reasoning for wanting to move on from TFA is sound.  You’ve made a good choice if you really can’t stand doing it!  But if you feel like you could re-evaluate the situation and come up with another way to live your life while still teaching the second grade, I think you should stick with it!  After all, it really is only a year of your life and you’ll probably never have the chance to do something quite like this ever again.  Best of luck Bungus :O)  Give me a call~
    Matt

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