Teachin' For America

Thoughts and otherwise on one particular Teach for America experience.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Amazing Two Days

The past two days have been unbelievable. I've met a ton of outstanding people, learned a lot about teaching, TFA, and myself, and been wined and dined at some of St. Louis' finest establishments. I couldn't ask for more out of this experience, really. Where do I start?
Yesterday was taken up mainly with TFA workshops taught by our Program Directors and Eric, our executive Director. They were all useful and informative, but one in particular- Eric's presentation on successful corps members' common characteristic, an "Internal Locus of Control"- was really great. Normally I don't buy into philosophical statements like this that suggest ways for me to act in my life. I'm big on eye rolls, if you know what I mean. But this presentation and way of thinking, for whatever reason, really resonated with me. I found myself buying in. I bought into it like I've bought into few things other than Camp's "I'm Third." I couldn't believe it, but I was gaining another frame of reference for my actions. I was changing. It was amazing.
After the TFA workshops the corps was treated to dinner at a restaurant called Mirasol. They served us sangria, beer, and tappas dishes including duck and pork meatballs and a fabulous, spicy guacamole. It was great, especially since it was all free. At that meal I had the pleasure of conversing with Eric for a while. He is a striking personality. Really on point in a large number of areas. He has a lot of things to say that I'm interested in hearing. From his experiences teaching to his descriptions of his (very hard-sounding) job, he has really made an impression on me and I look up to him quite a bit. Cool.
Today was hectic and long. To cut it short because I'm tired, it involved a housing tour, a transportation snafu, a physical exam complete with "Turn your head and cough," an interview fair, and a totally awesome progressive dinner in downtown St. Louis. I interviewed at a middle school and an elementary. Word has it I stand a good chance of finding out where I got hired tomorrow at SLPS orientation. So there may be big news tomorrow. Exciting!
I have a feeling I'll be blogging about today sometime down the road. It was pretty insane and it took so much out of me I don't really feel like writing about it at the moment. Suspense!

Saturday, June 25, 2005

It Begins...

After a stressful, traffic-y, and overall just long drive, I arrived today in St. Louis to begin the rest of my life. Or at least the next two years of it. Here I am in my future home, the city whose children I am determined to help achieve and break the pattern of low expectations and disappointing results. Here I am ready to learn all I can about this city in the four days I have here before I leave temporarily and then return for good. Here I am: excited, nervous, bewildered, and scared out of my mind.
Luckily I'm not the only one here. All 50-some 2005 Teach for America St. Louis Corps Members arrived today. And all of them, I think, are feeling a lot like I am. If they're not, they must be robots.
I arrived at around 4:30, roughly 9 hours after I left Ann Arbor this morning. After a helpful Wash U employee filled me in on where to go, I timidly drove my car up to the parking area assigned to TFA. I have to admit, it took me a minute to get out of the car after I had found a parking space. I acted like I was organizing the stuff I had strewn about the car during my drive (actually, I really was doing that) and thought to myself that once I got out of the car, once I admitted to myself and the people around me that this was, in fact, my destination, the new life will have begun. I'll see other people from TFA, check-in with a staff member, and from that point there will be no turning back. It took a minute- change has always been hard for me- but I did it.
I entered the lobby of the dorm and announced that I was Pat Mobley, and I was here to teach! Actually, I timidly looked around for someone who appeared to be in charge, introduced myself, and laid myself at his feet, desperate to be told what to do. Shane, a program director, began to inundate me and a smiley, female corps member with whom I shared this briefing with information on the next few days. I made sure to pay attention in order to retain as much of it as possible. I did a pretty good job. I also made sure to smile and act overjoyed to be here instead of scared out of my mind. This was to make Shane and the smiley, female corps member feel comfortable. This, I think, I accomplished. Unfortunately, I seem to have failed to retain the smiley, female corps member's name despite exceptionally friendly introductions.
After that I acted busy in order to fit in. Corps members were arriving left and right, and everybody seemed to know where they were going. Thinking back, however, I think they were all likely acting just as much as I was. Eventually we began to loiter, to congregate, to do all the things people thrust into a situation like this do. It was freshman year of college all over again. But with these people there was something below the surface of our interactions. I think there was less sizing up than normally goes on. We all knew why we were here, all shared that bond. People go to college for all kinds of reasons, but the fact is that everyone here has very similar motivations. We all want to dedicate the next two years of our lives to closing the achievement gap, to making a difference in the lives of children who need a difference made in their lives. We are here to raise their expectations, to make failure unacceptable, to ensure that they have every opportunity for success in school and subsequently in life. We are all here to be TFA Corps members. And we are all excited.