Time To Put on My Big Girl Pants!

Ever have one of those weeks when you’ve got so many emotions playing raquetball in your skull that you don’t know which way is up and all you can do is put your finger sideways to your lips and go brbrbrbbrbrbrbrbrbrbrb..?

But even so I feel I owe it to you, o readers of my blog, to at least attempt complete sentences in this, my conciliatory blog post, in which I formally announce: I GOT INTO TEACH FOR AMERICA! (that’s right mmhmm I did.)

If you haven’t been following my nervous and repetitive ramblings, Teach For America is a prestigious nation-wide non-profit that sets up college grads in needy schools all across the country.  I’ve been waiting to hear back for literally months, daily wasting away into a pool of bored self-loathing.  BUT NO MORE!

Teach For America–I joined for many reasons: to pay off my loans, boost my resume for grad school, learn a marketable skill, have an adventure, earn money for travel, and of course, for the chance to do something great for my country.  Beginning this June, I will be spending two years or more dedicated to the cause of educational reform in America!

Ah, Tulsa.

Now, where am I going, you ask?   Oklahoma, that’s where.  Come September I will be a high school English teacher in Tulsa, OK.  Can you believe it?  Teaching high school English was my childhood dream, so even though it’s not exactly forcing my tweenny minions into monk simulations and elaborate reenactments of the French Revolution (read: being a history teacher–my adult dream), I’m not disappointed.  And there’s always the chance I’ll get to teach Beowulf.

In short, it’s going to be one hell of a big, new responsibility not to mention an enormous affirmation of adulthood.  As one friend put it: it is now my patriotic duty to make kids love Shakespeare.  Talk about the world’s best challenge!

Of course, Oklahoma wasn’t exactly on my list of interesting places to end up, that’s for freaking sure.  I mean, Tulsa?  What’s in Oklahoma anyway?  Other than Idaho, I think Oklahoma might be the state with which I am the least familiar.  Let’s cover all the things I knew about Oklahoma as of last night when my friends and I went out for our celebratory meal, starting with the most important:

1. The wind comes sweeping down the plain.

2. There is a large bowl of dust there and probably also some locusts.

3. It is full of hobos and tramps and vaguely cowboy-looking drifters.

4. The government forced all the remaining Native Americans to relocate there in one last move of ultimate douchebaggery.

5. Here be tumbleweeds.

6.  It looks like a frying pan and is probably as hot.

7. Its main export is fundamentalist christians closely followed by tornadoes.

8.  It’s somewhere near Texas… or maybe Virginia? No wait, I think it’s west.  But isn’t it in the South?  Ummm…

As you can see, my list is kind of useless.  But it’s been exactly twenty-four hours since I learned about my placement, in which I’ve learned a few more, not really heartening things.  One stands out in particular though:

In Oklahoma today, one in five children lives in poverty. Only seven percent of students from Tulsa Public Schools graduate college-ready, with only 1-2 percent of African-American and Latino students graduating college-ready.

No joke there.  I’m stepping into a Yucatan-meteor-crater of a gap in our social and educational system.  But this was never supposed to be about living trendy in NYC or San Francisco (not that I would have complained).  This is about kids stuck in forgotten school systems never learning to think for themselves.  I won’t be there forever, just long enough to do some serious good.  Hell, I expect Oklahoma will be like a foreign country to me, especially after living six years in the liberal bubble of Madison.  But if I joined the peace corps and ended up in Ghana or Zimbabwe no one would ask me aww why didn’t they put you in Paris or Berlin? Not the point!

(I say this not to convince you but to re-convince myself, here in the face of reality, of course.  And maybe if I keep reminding myself I’ll be able to stave off the nervousness that’s creeping into my system.)

In the meantime though–what a difference I’m feeling already.  There’s nothing to make you appreciate the present like knowing you have a future, and one that, for once, instead of being entirely about making one’s own life better, will actually involve helping someone else.  Or rather, a bunch of someones.  A faceless horde of terrifying someone elses all hopped up on hormones and rap music and cell phones (kids these days!).  Yeah, well, they are about to get their minds blown by prepositions and poetry and perfect paragraphs and omg hot diggity damn, Oklahoma here I come.


~ by Rachael on January 19, 2011.

2 Responses to “Time To Put on My Big Girl Pants!”

  1. I’m from Tulsa and I’m going to interview with TFA in a couple of weeks. I came across your blog while looking for interview tips. I really hope I’m able to teach in Tulsa. If you have any tips for Final Interview Day, I’d love some advice! Thank you!

  2. I am from Tulsa, and I stumbled upon this page through your stormy skyline photo. I really hope you have been able to change some of the stats that were quoted. The Oklahoma public educational systems has always been challenged, and simply said, the students deserve more!

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