When they said this would be the “hardest thing we’d ever do”, they weren’t exaggerating – not in the slightest. In fact, if you were to ask any of the five hundred or so corps members here at the Houston Institute, they wouldn’t mind telling you that “hardest thing ever” is an understatement of the highest order and one that doesn’t come even remotely close to capturing what we’ve been put through these last few weeks. Honestly, I would say that the involuntary flinch and shudder and darkened expression on the faces of those who have gone before us as they make the aforementioned pronouncement is far more telling of the nature of the beast than any combination of words put together in service of describing the brutality of the experience we call Institute.
I’ve gone on rushes before, but nothing like this. From Model UN conferences to sleepless nights leading up to that dreaded exam, I know what abusing my sleep pattern looks and feels like. But at three weeks in, when you find yourself still going full throttle, you know you’re in a different ballgame altogether. The toll on your body begins to feel all too real, and you start to wonder when things will finally let up. It is at this time that you remind yourself that you’re here for something greater than yourself, and that quitting carries a significance you’ve never known before. Now, when you fail, a generation fails.
You know you’ve become a teacher when you tell your friends that you “slept in” that morning and still woke up at 6.30am. We tell ourselves that our bodies are getting accustomed to less than five hours of sleep on average, but really, it amounts to little more than wishful thinking. You zone out in Curriculum Specialist Sessions, doze off in your Differentiated Time and start to truly cherish those 20 or so minutes of bumpy shut-eye on the way to your school site and back. Yet, you persevere knowing that you’ve had your time and that you’re here to give the kids theirs.
As the pressures of lesson-planning collide with the charge of effectively managing and teaching a bunch of tough kids, the whole thing starts to look like an insurmountable challenge requiring mental and physical strength of Herculean proportions. A few of our number have already bowed out, and for the rest of us still hanging on, a recently acquired sense of deep and genuine concern “for the kids” keeps us chugging. “FTK” becomes an expression of solidarity, a banner under which we find ourselves united in our collective mission to educate. FTK, they’ll say upon hearing that someone has to do their lesson plans all over again. FTK, when waiting for upwards of an hour to make copies of assessments and guided notes for next day’s lesson. FTK, when a blue-bleeding Michigan Wolverine must (grudgingly, mind) work alongside an Ohio State Buckeye.
For the kids, we keep reminding ourselves. And if you had never truly bought into this mantra, you’d have quit a long time ago.
A word on the blog itself.
I’ve been wanting to chronicle my experiences since before I left for Houston, but I never could find the time. This 4th of July weekend is perfect in that I’m able to sit down in one place, organize my thoughts and get this blog started.
Now, although the primary function of this blog is to provide an account of my journey as a new teacher, I will also on occasion throw in things that interest me, from American foreign policy vis-a-vis the Middle East to music. I hope I’m able to update this blog regularly and I hope I don’t fall out of it.
Here we go.