The MEGnitude of Change

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
May 13 2013

Checking Myself

“Leave your baggage at the door.”

The past few weeks have been grueling for me — professionally and personally. I have been stuck in limbo, frozen just like the computers that my kids have tested on. As EOIs approached, I entered “triage mode,” prioritizing what was most important for my kids to succeed academically and stuffing the rest into the closet, ignoring it for a rainy day. Therefore, when my EOI was rescheduled (which, as a result of changing test dates & frozen computers, happened multiple times), my “triage mode” was prolonged. I felt wasted, drained, strung out. At a certain point, catching up seemed impossible.

Last week, I hit a new low. I opened that closet door, and everything I had been ignoring crashed down on me. Management issues I had been avoiding, mountains of grading I had pushed aside, phone calls home I had failed to make. The weight of my decisions fell upon me, and I had no clue where to begin.

So, last Friday, after a particularly heavy morning, one of my students came into my room early. MR loves to joke around with me, sitting in my desk and claiming that he’s going to fail every test (although he is one of the most gifted math students in the school). Throughout the week, he had noticed I had been down & out and had laid off the jokes. But on Friday, he entered my room and asked, “Ms. Barnett, how are you feeling today?”

InĀ general, I like to practice honesty with my students, and I know I looked sloppy. My hair was a mess, and there were bags under my eyes. I smiled at him as I answered, but I still answered honestly. “Well, I’m not the best.”

Instead of meeting me with sympathy, MR gave me a stern look. “Now, Ms. Barnett, you know better than this. You have to leave your issues at the door — just like you tell us to do.”

It’s in these moments that you know, in some small way, you’ve said something that hit home. Something memorable. Some of my kids may not ever remember the four congruence postulates after this year, and I don’t really mind. What I hope they remember is to check their baggage at the door and come to work each day — and that they hold themselves & everyone around them to that standard.

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My journey in mathematics and beyond

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