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I am 72 Years Old. Ask My Mom.

October 26, 2010

I realize it’s been a long time since I’ve updated this.  And while it’s been a while, it feels as though I just wrote about training, about my sumer school students, about my summer.  What made me realize the amount of time was much longer than that was the action of having to turn on my heat.  That’s it.  Every year around the time I have to bust out the jackets, socks and boots, I have a mini panic attack of “What have I been doing with my life?!”.  However, this time, I’ve been doing a lot.  School started a little over 2 months ago.  I think I’m working around 80 hours a week which is making me feel like an 80 year old… but I love it.  There are days when I don’t know how I’m going to find the energy to tell 28 students how to title a paper the next day, but it always develops, somehow.  It sound so cliche, but for the first time in my life, I’m in a job that I love.  Every part of it, even the grading.  These kids are incredible and the way they think and push each other because they want to be better is more than I could ever have asked for.  I still have those moments when I think, how am I supposed to teach all of this in one year, but I’m doing it, day by day.  Of course there have been bumps along the way.  I may have told my kids we had a ghost, I may have convinced them I am 72 and just use really good face cream, and I may have convinced them that I will throw in spelling errors as “mistakes” to see if they’re paying attention, but I think overall I’m doing an alright job.

Besides the job, Detroit is pretty great too.  I’ve been able to explore the city, meet people, and begin to make it my own.  I still hate the Michigan left turns, and the potholes that make me feel like I’m in a Flinstone car, but the trips to Belle Isle, Eastern Market and nights on the porch make up for it.  I still miss SF, and my family.  I don’t think that is ever something that will go away, but I’m at a place where I wish I could share with them what I’m experiencing here, because I’m proud to live here and I’m happy to be a part of Detroit.

More updates are on their way, I promise, but for now here a couple pics and my mini update.


Venus Fly Traps and Heat Waves

August 8, 2010

Around 9 pm last night I got a call.  The voice was quiet and kind of sounded like a child.  Then I heard “Ms. Feldman?  Is that you?”  It was one of my students from summer school.  The one that was waaaay beyond his grade level and loved carnivorous plants.  This was also the one who was moved across the country because it was now “dads turn to deal with him.” I was in shock.  At the end of the class we gave out our numbers and emails, but never expected to actually get called by a 3rd grader.  For a half an hour I listed to him talk.  He told me about how he was in the search for a new Venus Fly Trap, how he was watching the news and learned of the heat wave happening in Miami and how horrible it was that people were dying, about how the desert is beautiful at the base of the mountains and much nicer it was than Chicago because there isn’t any humidity.  This kid can talk, he’s incredible.  I think at that point it started to set in.  I am a teacher, and I am someone’s go-to person.  It definitely makes you rethink how you spend your time.  Do I really want to sleep in until 12 or do I want to wake up and start lesson planning so I’m the best that I can be for these students?  How did I become this person?!  I loved sleeping in, saving everything for the last minute and rewriting the same essay to turn in for various assignments.  It feels good though.  Finally, I’ve found something that I don’t want to do half-assed.  I found something that I want to put in 110% to and that’s rad.  And yes, I may be a teacher, but I will still use “rad, stoked and whoa” in nearly every sentence 🙂

So here I am, on a Sunday morning at 9 am.  I could be sleeping, but instead I’m unit planning and writing about students.  I’m also listening to a group of older adults behind me, talking about how they’re racist towards groups of people but it’s ok because they know it… And I’m trying to remember that if I get arrested for making a scene in public, it probably won’t look that great as a teacher and then there will no longer be units to plan for…  Deep breaths…

I Survived Institute 2010

July 26, 2010

It’s true, I survived. I survived and am still standing! After 5 long weeks of 20 hour days, a gazillion lesson plans, and 3rd graders who challenged me (in a good way!) every day, I made it to the other side. While I won’t miss the tiny showers, dorm food and earwigs that kept me company at night, I’m definitely going to miss the people. There really were amazing people I was able to meet and work with and I am so fortunate to have that opportunity.

I’m also going to miss our 3rd graders like crazy. They helped make this an incredible experience and I hope that I was able to teach them at least half of what they taught me. I’m also happy to the the girl I made cry on the first day that absolutely hated me, ended up completely turning around and not only started earning the best grades in the class, but also gave me a hug on the last day and told me she didn’t want us to leave.

Now I get a couple weeks to try and organize my life before I’m back at work at my new school with a new group. I’ll be getting settled in Detroit starting Wednesday and it’ll be nice to finally be able to call someplace home again.

So now that I’m done, and starting life again, it means I finally can start reconnecting with people. To say I’ve been busy is an understatement and while I wish I could have explained everything that was going on with my days, it just seemed impossible to talk, let alone update anyone. Thank you all for the support over the past couple of months. I promise I’ll start returning emails and calls now 🙂

These Make Up For The Bad Days

July 20, 2010

A Loooooooooong Overdue Update

July 18, 2010

For 5 weeks I’ve been at training “Institute” for my new job through Teach for America. Going into it, I was hoping I would be able to stop, think and update people on what’s been going on. Well, here we are, 5 weeks later and this is my first real update… Better late than never though, right?

Going into this training, I knew it was going to be hard, I knew there were going to be long hours, I knew there would be a few breakdowns along the way. I did not know that at the end of each day I’d look at my phone, want to call friends and family, but be totally out of words. So here’s my attempt to recap everything that’s been going on.

After I left San Francisco, I went to Detroit for about 5 days. It was a short induction to TFA, Detroit and the people I’d be spending the next few years with. Going into it I was terrified. Honestly, I had no idea if leaving my whole life back in SF would be worth it. I’ve wanted to teach for as long as I can remember, but was this the right way? Luckily, once I got to Detroit, things moved so fast I didn’t really have time to allow myself to get sad.

There are about 100 people in my corps group from all over the US. Meeting them all was a little insane and it doesn’t help that I have the memory of a gnat and can never remember names… but these people are incredible. I am so amazed with the amount of drive and passion I keep seeing from them and it’s easy to feel motivated working with a group like this.

Once we completed Induction, we left for Chicago to start Institute. I’ve heard all the stories, but it wasn’t until I got there I could truly understand what it was all about. A normal day starts at 5:30. Get up, get ready, teach summer school, attend trainings, grab dinner, attend more sessions/trainings, plan lessons, prepare for the next day, go to bed between 12-3am. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat… I also live in dorms, on tiny, slippery “beds”, share 2×2 ft showers and eat dorm food. But it’s free, so I can’t complain, that much ☺ .

Teaching summer school has been a trip. I’m teaching 3rd grade to students who either need to retake their standardized test or missed too much school and need to pass into 4th grade. I am a part of a group of 5 who teach the class, each taking turns on different subjects. I don’t think anyone could have said or done anything to prepare me for what I was about to experience. 26 students. 26 opportunities. 26 chances to teach them as much as we can while they teach me about who I am as a teacher. These kids are some of the most amazing people I’ve ever met, and they’re only 9-10 years old. They range with abilities from pre-k level to 8th grade. There are definitely days when I think about how fast I could push out the window on the left side of the room and run as far as I can, but then I get over it. I’ve never been at a job that I’ve been so frustrated, so excited, so confused and loved so much. I’ve had to change lesson plans in the middle of class, I’ve had to literally chase down parents, I’ve had to explain the differences between “I” and “eye” for 30 min and I’ve had to look up words that I’m not even sure if I know what the definition is that my students use. It’s insane, and it’s rad. Here are a few students they have really made an impression on me:

Student 1 – 8 years old. The first thing I asked him was “What are you proud of?” His response was he loves to read and help people learn. After i tested him, i learned that he’s at a pre-k/k level for reading and math. When he writes, it looks like this: OMELOTEMEALOMLETOMEOMLETTOMDE. He only knows about 6 letters. But when you talk to him, he’s incredible. He told me that his teachers and family tell him he’s stupid, but he knows he can learn and when people get you down, you just have to hold your head up high. One day, he shared with me that he’s living with his dad because his mom went after his dad with a knife and is in jail. He doesn’t like living with his dad though because he’s “emotionally abusive” He also is the big brother so he needs to look after his siblings and make sure they don’t get sad. He’s 8. After hearing this I just kinda broke down, like i have no idea what to even do. Luckily i have a great advisor and we started thinking of a plan, but it’s heartbreaking that this is his reality and he is still so strong.

Student 2 – He may be smarter than me. His dream is to be a botanist and study “carnivorous plants”. (I had to look up how to spell carnivorous). He spends his time drawing batman and Venus flytraps. He reads at at least an 8th grade level (that’s the highest we could test him). He’s in summer school because when he takes tests, his mind goes blank. I can relate… He also loves Etta James and loves to tell Julia Roberts jokes. There’s another side to him as well. He wants attention more than anyone I’ve ever met and he’s tired of just getting passed on from person to person, family to family. Because of this, it’s a constant struggle to get him to concentrate and to stop just screaming out anything and everything. Last week in the middle of a lesson he fell to the floor and started swinging his arms. When I asked what he was doing, he simply responded, “I want to know what it’s like to be a paraplegic and not have the use of his legs”. What do you even say to that?!

Student 3 – He’s quiet, but he also if the most polite kid I’ve ever met. He carries my books (he offered!) and opens doors for us. He studies words all day and wants to “see everyone in the class be a leader”.

Student 4 – She spends all day drawing Michael Jackson. She’s great at math, but is reading at a first grade level. She’s always the first to get up without asking and help as many people in the class. I don’t think I’ve heard her say more than 3 words. She’s also taller than I am and 9 years old…

Student 5 – His favorite music is Lady Gaga. His hero is his girlfriend who “is the best thing that’s ever come into his life”. He also carries a pocket sized US Constitution with him and reads it all the time. He’s also 9.

As far as the trainings have been going, it’s interesting to say the least. A lot of times it’s frustrating, like we never really know what’s going on. It also feels like ever second of every day is planned out for us. At the same time, it’s a program that is supposed to take each of us and prepare us to be the ones responsible for people’s lives. This job is not a joke. It’s not like we can just mess up and start over the next day. These are people’s lives and futures we’re dealing with so it’s understandable that every action we do is a big deal.

This upcoming week is our last week of Institute. I’d like to say it’s flown by, but I feel like I’ve been here forever. I don’t want to leave my students. Like I was terrified to leave SF, I’m now terrified to leave my class and just hope that they keep with them all the things we’ve attempted to teach in such a short amount of time.

In other life updates, I got hired at a school where I’ll be teaching 3rd or 4th grade. This weekend I also found a beautiful house to live in with 3 other TFA people. After institute I get to spend some time with Team Trummer and have a mini Cape Town reunion as we convince more and more people to move to the Midwest. I’m still not sure when I’ll get to go back and visit people since I start teaching on August 9th, but I hope it’s soon.

So after all of this has happened, and I look back on how these past 5 weeks have shaped me, I’m confident this is what I should be doing. I love this. For the first time in my life, I’m in a job that I can work almost 20 hours a day and still be just as excited and passionate about it as when I started my day. It’s hard, it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but I’m happy. I’m grateful to be among such supportive and inspiring people. And in no time, I’ll be back in Detroit, and I could not be more excited to get there and settled finally.

For all of my non-TFA friends and family: I miss you more than you know. Please know I’m thinking of you even if I’m not always able to pick up the phone and call, or write an update. I hope all is well!

Pretty cool video about Detroit Public Schools. Are you in?

June 10, 2010

Final Countdown – 7 days

June 5, 2010

As I approach my last week in San Francisco, it’s all starting to feel real. I’ve done a great job of staying in denial, but I can’t anymore. Everywhere I look I’m faced with something that revolves around moving whether it be shipping off the few memories of my life I decided to keep, changing my address, canceling bills and saying my goodbyes.

Last night I went to a show downtown with some friends. It was the night before my going away party so I was still in the denial mindset. Halfway through the show my best friend told me she had a going away gift. I figured it was a drink, or some of the free peanuts they were giving away. I turned around to see one of my closest friends from LA. He originally told me he wasn’t going to be able to make it and I was heartbroken I wasn’t going to be able to say goodbye in person. They had all kept it a secret from me and he ended driving up so that he could be here for my final weekend. I officially lost it and the tears set in. I’m leaving. I’m leaving the city I love, the people I feel like I can’t live without, and a life that I spent so many years planning for. I’m going to a new city where I officially know no one. A city that people keep sending me articles about the dangers of life there. A city I’ve never even been to. However, this is my dream job. It’s an opportunity of a lifetime and I have to give it my all and trust in myself that things will be ok. That’s hard. It’s terrifying actually. But it’s exciting and thrilling too. No one is going to make me happy except me.

So here I am, 30 hours behind in reading, studying material I haven’t touched in years and preparing a resume for my new career. This is so very real now. And sadly, all those weeks I spent in denial, I’m pretty sure my body was storing tears I wasn’t using because I don’t think they’re stopping anytime soon.

The only thing I can concentrate on is one thing my mom has always asked me:

“How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time…”