Mississippi Teacher Corps

Saturday, June 02, 2007

stayed in Mississippi a day too long

I came back up North a few days after school ended, and I'll fly back to Mississippi tomorrow morning for a month of summer school, etc. Am I dreading leaving? No. Am I excited about going back to Mississippi? Emphatic no. Right now, I'd like nothing more than to spend two months at home with my family, reading and watching the Red Sox and visiting friends. Well, revise that to say I'd like nothing more than to do the above, and not return to my teaching post in the fall.
For a good part of the past school year, I had my struggles and successes like anyone else in the program, and I thought it was quite likely that I would continue to teach after I finished my two years with MTC, perhaps even staying at my placement school. That optimism has faded. Now, I am just trying to figure out how to get myself through another year before leaving Mississippi and leaving teaching. Yes, I know how disheartening that sounds.
Some time this spring, I started to feel that things were really out of control at my school and, worse yet, in my classroom. I knew that it was normal for teachers in my position to struggle with things like culture shock and classroom management. But, talking to others, I suddenly realized that even for a teacher in my situation, it was not normal to have students throwing objects at you, or vandalizing your room on a regular basis, or calling you nasty curse words so many times that you lost count. Granted, part of the problem comes from the fact that I decided to teach middle school instead of high school, but even so, I found myself driving to school every morning bracing myself for whatever disrespect would be thrown at me that day. I've felt very bad about my inability to better manage my classroom, and at a loss for what to do differently. I found myself getting homesick from time to time. I was fortunate enough to have a significant other living just down the road from me, and I think that having this support may have been the only thing that kept me from going completely crazy these past few months. The fact that my significant other has just left Mississippi for good makes me especially dread the start of a new school year.
The last week of school was very stressful for me, not because anything that happened in class was particularly bad, but because I'd been given my contract for next year and had to decide what to do with it. During the spring, I'd quite seriously considered trying to switch to a different school district, but ultimately decided that I'd be better off facing known demons. Once I had my contract in hand, I started questioning the wisdom of that decision. I was also extremely tempted not to sign the contract and to just leave Mississippi. I realized that the reason that this was such a stressful decision was that at various points during the year, I'd thought about quitting, but never got very far in my thinking because I knew that I'd never be able to shake the guilt of abandoning my students mid-year, as ungrateful as some of them could be toward me (of course, I'm not talking about all my students here; there were the ones that let me know that they appreciated me, and they kept me going). When I had my contract, it was the first time I'd had to make a conscious decision to return, and I questioned the sanity of, as it seemed, signing myself up for another year of abuse at the hands of students and administrators. I did it anyway, probably because I have a stubborn will to finish a commitment that I told myself I would see through to the end. Maybe I'll feel better about coming back next year after I've had some more time away from my school and no longer feel completely worn down and emotionally drained.
Recently, I've been focusing my energy on making plans for a year from now, when I finish teacher corps. I decided very recently that I think I want to go to medical school. It was something I'd been considering on and off since high school, and ultimately decided I didn't want to go largely because I was scared of the intensity of medical school and the profession, as well as the bureaucracy associated with the profession. After a year teaching in the Delta, though, none of this seems as intimidating. I've had to work crazy hours where I've had eight hour stretches with barely time to breathe (literally- I have asthma and sometimes couldn't even take my inhaler when I needed it because it would mean leaving students unsupervised), and I've had to deal with incompetent bureaucracy. And guess what? I survived it all. Having to study like crazy in medical school doesn't scare me much, either; after being at my school for a year, just having to spend lots and lots of time studying doesn't seem horribly stressful. As I realized a few months ago, now that I've been out of school for a year in my life, I'm excited about learning and being a student again. It will be the first time in my life that being a student will be a conscious decision for me; I grew up in a community where it was more or less assumed that 18 year olds would graduate from high school and go to college. I actually find it enjoyable to pick up old textbooks and read them now (laugh at that one all you want, but it's the truth). If nothing else, teaching for another year will strengthen my conviction that I can keep myself going through tough times, no matter how badly I want to give up.

Now playing: Bob Dylan- Mississippi


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