This is where it all began. The room where we all met for the first time — where the “incoming” was dropped from our titles and we officially became corps members. Where “Teach For America” changed from some abstract commitment to a living, breathing entity that would inspire and challenge and frustrate and encourage us.
On June 3, 2012, this place — Oklahoma City University — welcomed us into our new lives. In this space, we thought we were embarking on “teacher life” and only after months in the classroom do we finally see how little we knew about this work– our kids, our city, ourselves — when we began.
Here, we struggled to wake up for 7:30 breakfast; today, we’re shocked to see the sun before the first bell rings. Here, we thought offering articulate responses to questions about diversity would gain us respect; today, we see that wise and nuanced perspectives mean little unless they impact our relationships with tangible people. Here, we buzzed up and around and into each other, trying desperately to make friends; today, we only spend energy on those relationships that make us feel good.
Here, we believed we could achieve success simply by trying our hardest. We thought we were in control.
Only as one of my fellow corps members and I strolled through our Induction site did I become aware of how I’ve changed over the past few months. Slowly, and sometimes painfully, I have come to see how little I can control. Success in my classroom is not dependent solely on carefully crafted five-step lesson plans, engaging hooks, or perfectly aligned data. Rather, success is determined by my ability to be in the moment — to roll with the punches & turn any situation into a learning opportunity. My success does not hinge on my ability to control my students, but rather, on my ability to channel their energy. I understand this job entirely differently than I used to.
Now, 7:30 breakfasts feel like a luxury. My opinions on diversity are now informed by hundreds of experiences and are undoubtedly wiser than anything I could’ve previously offered. Engaging with those buzzing corps members now gives me energy, rather than draining me. Visiting OCU shows me how much more I can handle after a few months — I can only imagine the stamina we’ll all have built a year from now.
New challenges arise, but after eight months, I have every faith we can handle them. I’m starting to see teaching as a test of endurance. The days haven’t gotten easier, but my stamina has increased. I can weather the storm with a little bit more grit than I used to.