I Got The Love-And-Hate-Institute Blues

Institute has been hard.  Like, three hours of sleep a night hard.  Like, verge of tears at all times hard.  Like, shaving years off of your life hard. I am only alive to tell the tale for three very distinct reasons:

1. I have a CMA who shouts me out in the dining hall.  Who tells me I’m awesome at every opportunity.  Who emails me to tell me how much he supports me… and not because he’s paid to do it.  Who embarrasses me in front of my CMA group by telling me “I can do no wrong in his eyes.”  Who legitimately believes in me.

I would be dead without Zach.

2. I have the world’s most ridiculous co-teacher. For every minute of institute I spend swinging low, I spend another ten laughing until I think I will die.  I had to stop wearing eye makeup during the day because I have tears rolling down my face fifteen times a day thanks to him–quite possibly the most positive person I have ever met.

I would be dead without Ramon.

(Honestly, I’d be dead without my entire colab (collaborative… the three other teachers I teach with every day).  They are the most passionate, hilarious people I have ever met.  My loyalty to them is unbelievable.  They are my war buddies.  Don’t f*** with them.)

3.  They let us play with play-dough to stay awake during session.  That’s right–play dough.  We make little animals and log houses and hotdogs and hamburgers as we learn about diversity and behavior management.  If there is no play dough, it’s pipe cleaners.  Or squishy balls.  Or little toys.  They trust us so much here to be responsible adults that they in fact let us get away with acting like children.

I would be dead without play time.

These are all new realizations, however.  Hell, as of last week I was so busy trying to teach and to survive, I didn’t have time to think about these things so damn constructively .  There was no time for reflecting on why I felt so safe and supported and cared for here, of all places, even at the height of debilitating stress.  I was just happy, in the moment, trying not to die, making sure my team didn’t die, not paying attention to the lack of  light at the end of any dark tunnels.   I thrive on near-death-experiences.

But something clicked this week, and that something is that Institute–well hell, it’s almost over.  Shit’s about to get REAL my friends.  I’m going to be in North Tulsa soon, facing some SERIOUS educational inequality.  No more playtime.  No more colab.  No more partner in crime who always has your back.  The lofty ideals I carry with me about educational equality in my country are about to be up in my face like I wouldn’t believe.  And this realization has turned me into, as we say, a hot, freaking, mess.

And now I have the guilt.  The guilt that I am failing my students.  The guilt that I have spent so much time on my own development and on trying to support my fellow corps members that I have in fact neglected to support my children.

I am, I now realize, actually afraid of them.

I had a very tight group of friends in high school.  I knew who I was, I knew what I wanted, and I always thought that people who didn’t like me for who I was could go freaking freak themselves for all I cared.   I assumed–and still do assume–that everyone I meet will initially hate me, until I convert them.

But I’m a teacher now.  The people I am afraid will hate me are in fact my own students.  I stick to my colab because I am trying to protect myself from a group of children.  It’s a messed up situation.  I have been defending myself subconsciously from a group of innocent ninth graders, and I have succeeded in alienating myself from them in the process.  I can care about them all I want deep down, but my actions reveal contempt.

And in the meantime, I have accidentally locked myself into a homework battle.  They just won’t do it, and no amount of anger or pleading or threats is going to help me help them.   Not in a week at least.  I can’t just fail 8 out of 10 of them, and of course they know that.

I am stuck, and being the perfectionist I am, my instinct is to just run.  Run away.  Keep your head down and start fresh in Tulsa.

But no!  No freaking way!  These kids, my kids, who think I am lame and probably hate them, god they’re so smart.  What can I do to help them?  How do I fix this impasse?  How do I swallow my pride and my fear and actually connect to them?

I have about 17 hours to figure out the answer.  Shit.

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~ by Rachael on July 10, 2011.

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