Fifty one days of teacher training and I somehow have become a fully certified teacher. I’m 23 years old. I have a signed contract, my own classroom, $31,000 salary with benefits, and a whole lot of people counting on me. Like Ben Guest said, this is insane. Under any other circumstances, I should not be held to the same standard as a first year teacher with a traditional licensure. I am not qualified to teach 150 kids about science; I am not qualified to help guide and lead pubescent preteens into what will become the foundations of their lives—no matter what some bureaucrat might see on paper: I am no teacher. But that’s just it, this is a circumstance that we are all in. There is a broken system and desperation is the result of such pressures on the human condition. The school and the kids that I’m serving truly deserve 20+ year experience veteran teachers in every classroom. They certainly do not deserve a first year teacher with fifty one days of training and twenty six lessons under his belt. But at my school, unfortunately, I am their only option. I ought to be teaching at the prep academy in a rich suburb, not at the lowest preforming district in the state, if not the country.
Aside from the misfortune and the injustice of it all and besides having a nice piece of paper laying on my desk in front of me that says I am certified to teach in the state of Mississippi, I have, after an intense training, with me newly chiseled confidence in myself that can get me through anything. I have met an amazing group of people, each of which I can truly call my friends. I have gained knowledge beyond what anyone could teach me. And I have with me now, experience that will guide me into the next stage of this adventure.
Against my worst fears of public judgement and exhaustion, I have survived and thrived this summer. And the whole time, I’ve done this against my better judgement, against my jerk reaction. I’ve wanted to quit this whole thing twice now and cried myself to sleep numerous times, but I have persisted and become reenergized with purpose after each doubt.
This journey has been the most stressful first step into anything before that I have ever committed to. It’s not necessarily the summer training boot camp that was overly hard, but the prospect of what is to come is what is stressful: 150+ kids every day that are all looking up to me for guidance, knowledge and position in their lives. Lives which I will never fully appreciate, because this culture is so foreign to me. But I am trying with each conversation I have with my students and that gives me hope. I feel as though my eyes have been clouded my whole life, as though I’ve been sheltered inside some opaque bubble of what an “American” should be. I have lived as and am a stereotype; no matter how much I want to reject it. This is the first step in recovery, or growth, no? An acceptance of the problem? Or simply, what I grasp as a problem in my life. Yet, this is not a sad occurrence! This is invigorating! I cannot wait to form real relationships with my students, their parents, this community, and this state. I cannot wait to get to know what it is I do not know. I cannot wait to call the parent and tell them how great their son is doing. I cannot wait to light that spark of science and school for that girl who people assumed less of. I cannot wait for those lightbulb moments. I cannot wait to grow, actually, it is happening right now. Keep this perspective.
And how will I grow? That is, of course is being determined. However, I certainly need to grow my confidence and composure. I need to better learn how to command a classroom with my simple presence. I need to grow my compassion, discipline and tough love. I want my students to recognize me as an educator, their teacher, and a competent adult. I need to be quicker on my feet and more efficient at everything. I need to organize and prioritize beyond what I thought was possible. If I’m going to make it this first year, I must go beyond the ordinary that I’ve lived thus far. I must no longer be an object pushed by my environment around me, but rather I must be a force that pushes itself and does not rely on the external factors. I must, in other words, work on guiding myself into the unknown and trust my judgement. There will be no one there to experience this as intimately as me, therefore I must take the reigns and self determine.
These first fifty four days of Mississippi have been a precipitous leap—and if I’ve learned anything, it is that I have so much to learn about education, children, adults, society, the United States, food, community, power, struggles, injustice, race, religion, hope, compassion, justice, strength, love, and above all my self. I am so thankful and so energized. August the first: here I come.