It seems like a year ago that I meandered my way off of I-95 looking for Temple University for the first time, and yet sometimes it’s hard to remember where the last month of my life went. The whole experience is kind of a blur. When I was packing up my stuff yesterday, it was a bit hard to process the fact that Institute was really over.
The experience was at times surreal, extremely taxing, extremely hilarious, inspiring, communal, bitterly frustrating, monotonous, thought-provoking, and joyful. I’ve gone from being a bumbling, ineffective teacher to a more confident, yet still-ineffective teacher, but the good news is that I will leave Philly with a truckload of experience and ideas that will hopefully make me far more successful in the fall. Not everyone makes it through Institute, so I feel blessed that I was provided the strength to endure it. And I hope I managed to teach these kids at least a couple things while I was there.
I’m going to miss my students, as knuckle-headed as they can be at times. I’m not so far removed from their age to remember how hard it was to be 14. And many of my students deal with far more pressing issues than the fairly standard stuff I had to think about at that age. They’ve got a million forces, most of which I can’t see, pulling them in a million directions, and it’s a struggle to try and make my vision for them compelling. The last day of school, I gave my students surveys, and the results weren’t surprising. Most of my kids found me to be a reasonable teacher, but I scored pretty low on the categories pertaining to how much they perceived I really cared about them as people. The more poignant feeling I get when thinking about my students than nostalgia is the feeling that I let them down. As brutal as Institute was, my one impossible wish is that I could do the whole thing over again and get it right before I start the “real thing”. I’m absolutely determined not to feel the same way about my first year come June.
What I want more than anything now is a week off to decompress, settle in, and start game-planning everything big and little thing I’m going to do and change up for the fall, but I don’t have that luxury. Yesterday, I drove to Trenton to collect the remainder of my belongings and towed them in a U-Haul to Baltimore, of where I’m now officially a resident. Tomorrow, at 8am, I report to my school for the next two years, Friendship Academy of Science and Technology (FAST), to start orientation and to help run the Summer Bridge program. In the evenings, I’ll be attending Teach For America orientation sessions, and doing grad school coursework. Sometime in the spaces between, I get to steal off to do other very important things, like buying bedding, if I’m lucky.
This is the first year FAST will be open. From the experience of meeting the principal, Dr. Roberts, at the hiring fair, it seems like the place is going to be something really special. I still don’t know much about my school, but I’m sure I’ll have plenty more to say soon. Tomorrow will be a big day.