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Tomarken.com > Research > Jello and Other things… (07-19-02)
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Jello and Other things…

A. B. H.
07.13.02-Da’ Bronx, NY
Subj: jello and other things
Date: Sat, 13 Jul 2002 2:03:47 AM Eastern Standard Time
From: A. B. H.
To:

Hello Hello!
Greetings from Teach for America, the Bronx, New York City, the East Coast, my New Life. Sorry to those of you with whom I’ve been incommunicado (and sorry to Marjorie and others of you to whom I swore I would never apologize for being incommunicado). Oh, and the mass email, in pure update style, I apologize for that too. Now that that’s out of the way…….

So I’ve been here at Fordham University in the heart (a heart that beats loudly and tirelessly day and night) of the Bronx for over two weeks now, doin the tfa thang, loving it, hating it, laughing, sweating, crying, continuing.

The first week we spent in training like I have never been trained before. ALL day long, going strong, Teaching as Leadership, Classroom Management, Instructional Planning and Delivery, Diversity, High Expectations, No Excuses, Diversity, Intelligence is Malleable, Not Fixed!!, Establishing “Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals,” Diversity, etc. etc. It was incredibly intense (and HOT, 90’s and 100’s, humidity that could compete with the coast of Kenya, and no air conditioning) and all 833 of us here at the New York Institute were getting more and more anxious and stressed the more they taught us (How will I ever remember it all? Will my misbehaving kids pause for a minute or two while I flip through Chapter 3 of Classroom Management to figure out how the hell to deal with them?? “Well it says right here on page 34, Jairo, that I need to firmly and in a consistent manner discipline you in a way that doesn’t hurt your dignity, so go sit in the focus zone and think about your misbehavior” ).

In the middle of the first week I was given my collaborative, the two other TFA corps members with whom I would be co-teaching. Immediately all other stresses took second place, as I struggled to resist the urge to scream at Judy the L.A. Valley Girl to shut up for one goddamn second, and to Tim the Stanford Philosopher to just forget about the inherently illogical nature of classroom rules and consequences, and decide, for the love of god, just decide whether or not you can agree with the rule “Respect yourself and others” and still hold true to your standards of logic.

Luckily for my sanity and stability, this past Monday I became Ms. Hill to Nathalie, Soledad, Jairo, Edwin, Elmer, Nashuska, and Socrates, a small class of third graders in the South Bronx. This week I still got up at 6am and went to bed at midnight or 1am every day, I still worked for that entire 18 hour period every day, I still got frustrated with Judy and Tim, I still cried, laughed, and sweated, but now I wouldn’t give it up for the world.

For the first time in a long, long time, I actually feel motivated to work my ass off, because the work I’m doing isn’t only for my benefit, it is directly and so obviously effecting my kids, and that is inspiring. It is also intimidating as hell, and I am certainly not always effective. Tim, Judy and I (who are actually getting along really well now, shockingly) have to rewrite our lessons every blasted night, due to the discoveries that we make throughout each day as to the level these kids are at in the varying subjects, and due to our own inability to predict how long a lesson will take.

But sweet christ, have you seen this kid Socrates?? (and can you believe that’s his name?!) His devilish smile hints at hyper-intelligence and screams of naughtiness, and I love him for that.

Elmer says "jellow" instead of "yellow" and "New Jork" instead of "New York", has a story for everything, and looks like such an Elmer, and I love him for that.

When Nathalie raises her hand (every five seconds) I’m worried she’s going to throw her shoulder out with all the wiggling, waving, and squirming, and I love her for that.

Soledad is so shy and quiet, covers her face when I call on her, and misses her sick father in Mexico, and I love her for that.

Edwin recently moved here from Puerto Rico and doesn’t speak much English (and we don’t speak much Spanish), but his math skills would knock you on your ass, and I love him for that.

Even Ms. Rodriguez, our faculty advisor (veteren teacher) whose inch-long black hairs shooting out of the mole on her face; rancid, stale cigarrette/coffee breath; and demonic, gutteral laugh could scare any kid into submission, is great. Terrifying, but great.

My collaborative and I got lucky, we have a bridge class, which means that it’s more of an enrichment class than a remedial class (translation: they didn’t fail 3rd grade like most kids in summer school, they just need a little extra help before 4th grade because they’ve been in bilingual classes until now, which not only takes the pressure off of us to ensure that they pass the 3rd grade test at the end of the summer, like most TFA’ers have to do, but it also means that they like school). Also, we only have seven students, as you may have noticed. And when one of them asked if they would get homework, and we responded in the affirmative, a collective “YES!!” was heard throughout the room. Judy, Tim and I looked at each other like we were dreaming.

There have been a few names on the board, but nothing major. I’m almost worried that I won’t be fully prepared for the fall, but who cares, I’m loving it now! Especially now that it’s Friday, and I can sleep in tomorrow, and I don’t have to write lessons tonight and wait in line for hours for a computer, printer or copier.

So, in an obnoxiously large and longwinded nutshell, that has been my life for the last couple weeks. I wanted to give you all an update, and I got a little carried away. Anyway, feel free to send me emails of the equally obnoxious shellish variety, or even of the two lines, hello goodbye variety, I’d love to hear from all of you.

Love you all,
A

p.s. maceo, it’s alphabetical, chill out.

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