If you are thinking of joining the Mississippi Teacher Corps, or any alternative route teaching program, please, consider the following:
Every day I wake up at 5:30, eat a little something, take a shower, and drive off to school. I am there before most teachers and the principal, getting things ready for the bright new day. Each morning during this time I have big dreams of how the lesson I spent 6 hours on the night before won’t be delivered to deaf ears, but will turn out amazing and the kids will learn and retain SO much in 50 minutes. It’s a peaceful beginning, that ends with unknown but typically frustrating pull-your-hair-out feelings of intense dissatisfaction and lack of fulfillment.
Let’s stop before we go on. Now, before you discount this advice as ramblings, remember you and I are really the same. If you are considering joining such a program to become a teacher and you’re trying to read up on the pros and cons, remember I was exactly in your shoes not too long ago. Except, my vision was clouded in a such a way that I discounted any negative sounding advice about becoming a teacher (teacher burn-out, under-appreciation, non-stop crying, etc. etc.) and replaced it with all the ideas of the positive impact I would be making on my children and the community by becoming that rock and safe harbor. I would whip this school into shape and shame those teachers for allowing their school to sink to such a level that allows such a young, under-qualified, big dreamer such as myself to enter through those doors.
Okay, back to how I feel, or rather, back to how you will feel as I do now. Exhaustion. You’ll be exhausted everyday. Everyday. And not the feelings of exhaustion that you are familiar with currently. Really, remember that one time you pulled that all nighter in college and how tired and zombified you felt the next day? Remember how you were sleepy all day and then you got done with classes and crashed on your dorm bed at 2:30 and slept until 7:00 at night? Grabbed something to eat and were just brain-dead for the rest of your night? Well, take away the nap, because you’ll have to plan for the next day in that time, and get ready to allow your mind and body to experience exhaustion like it never has before.
Let’s regress back to that frustration you will feel each day. You will not just feel frustrated all the time because your students don’t understand the gibberish that comes out of your mouth, but you may vary well even feel real anger and sincerely want to hurt someone. You will slowly realize that your students and no one appreciates you for the the long hours you spend making that perfect lesson, because it turns out: 1) it’s not perfect, and 2) even if it was perfect, no one cares but you, so stop searching for appreciation at this point in your journey (yet know that it will come, and is coming, in ways you don’t yet fully realize—spoilers).
Alright, I hope by now, you have seen a glimmer of the depression you will undoubtedly feel—and no, you won’t be that 5% of teachers who are simply just born teachers, who don’t experience this, so stop holding out hope for that. And, stop. OK, let’s move on to some others things you might feel, or should be looking forward to feeling. Because if you don’t hold out hope for some happy thoughts, this job will consume you and you will quit before your time.
Everyday along with having a headache, getting frustrated, and being angry at my position in life, I smile, laugh, and love what I’m doing. I love spending six hours on a lesson the night before and getting the feeling of excitement that my little 6th graders will hopefully get just as excited as I am about Newton’s Laws of Motion, or any science topic that we’re learning about next. I absolutely love kids sneaking to my room in the morning saying, “Good morning Mr. H” to me in the morning, then running out of the room to their homeroom where they were supposed to be in the first place. I love the feeling of excitement that I get every time, it’s happening daily now, one of my children who I never expect to get the right answer answers a question dead on and I have them repeat it to the class, “SAY THAT AGAIN LOUD AND PROUD LAMARCUS!” “DID EVERYONE HEAR THAT?” “I SAID LOUD AND PROUD LAMARCUS!!” “YES, YES, PERFECT!!” I love that I can be a role-model and a confidant to my kids that I have earned trust from. I love those perfect management days I have when I’m on firing at the beginning of class dishing out the consequences, as the remainder of the period runs smooth like melted butter and the kids actually learn something. I love the anticipation of breaks, Fall break, Thanksgiving break, Winter break, Spring break. I get just as excited as the kids get at the anticipation of a snow day. I love that my room is my fortress that I’ve poured my life into and each student helps build it and break it down each day. I love that I try to make us family each period for 50 minutes every day, even though it never seems to work, I love that I can push my ideals onto these young minds just by the way I am naturally. We should all love one another and treat others with respect, be it the person sitting next to you, the bee that flies into the room, or the mouse that has found a home on the piles of writing assignments.
So, in short: should you join MTC? If you want to make meaningful difference in the lives of a couple kids who need someone like you most in their lives and want to learn how to be a good teacher, then yes. However, if your mission is to save some people from their situations, and be a superman, then no, please, no, you will not succeed at this.
Regardless your decision, if you do join you will fail miserably at what you set out to do. How you cope and grow from failing is what makes you a good teacher, a bad teacher, or just a quitter.