Humbleness and Hysteria

Today marks the first day of “Kickoff”, where ATF org members reunite to focus on what we will be doing and who we will be as teachers in our actual placement schools. 

Today, we did a lot of reflection. 

During said reflection, some of the experiences of the summer actually fell into place and began (mind you only began) to take place. 

Most of these reflections on myself as a teacher were extremely humbling because, well, I realized how much I actually sucked. Really, really, actually, positively sucked. 

One example of suckage that particularly stands out is the story of Robert. 


Robert was a student in my summer school class. I noticed a few days into school that all of the students called him Red. Everyone in the gym in the mornings called him Red. 

Awesome, Robert has a nickname, I beamed to myself, praising myself for my observations. I’m going to call him by his nickname! I will show Robert how much he means to me, that I pay attention, I observe, I know about him and who he is. Look at me! Building relationship! I tooted my own horn so loud and proud, I even ran off and “enlightened” my teaching quad about his nickname. 

The next day, I started referring to him as Red. 
“How’d you know my name’s Red, miss?!” he exclaimed, clearly surprised. I’m just that awesome. Go me. Yay Ms. Wildes! 

A few more days go by and all of a sudden, it’s community night and what do you know?! Robert’s mom came. During our conversation, I referred to Robert as Red blatantly and intentionally. See ma’am, I know your son! I even know his nickname. I care. 

Flabbergasted, she looked my right in the eyes, “Oh lord, y’all calling him Red now too?” 

“They’ve been calling him Red ever since he was in the elementary school. The kids picked on him because he’s light skinned and his hair has that reddish color to it,” Ms. Robert’s mom began slowly, and softly. “I told him everyday when he came home crying, ‘You are not white! You are a black boy, don’t let those kids tell you any different just because your skin has less pigmentation than theirs?’ And so, for years, they’ve called him Red and I guess it’s just stuck”. 

Shit fuck fuckerface fuck. 

This name, this “nickname” that I “so kindly” called him because I was “building relationships” is something that originated from bullying and is something that was terrible for my student. I didn’t build a fucking relationship by mimicking the teasing of his peers, I potentially demolished a relationship. I didn’t seek to understand where his nickname came from, I just thought I was great for observing it. 

And the worst part, I never asked Robert how he felt about being called Red. 

The next day in class, I switched back to calling him Robert to “fix” my screw up. “Miss, why are you all of a sudden calling me Robert again?!” he protested, confused and probably frustrated. 

Cue the moment where I should have had a discussion with him about where his nickname came from and how that makes him feel. Instead, this is what happened. 

“Well, which name do you want to be called?” I inquired, curious and nervous all at once.

“Red”

Well ok… 

And the rest of the summer, I called that poor kid Red. 


In the middle of my multi-cultural, multi-ethnic affinity group, the horridness of my own actions and choices hit me in the face as hard a cement block. Balls. I fucking suck. 

And it was apparent. 

 

First of all, not happening.

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I would like to castrate the person with enough balls to think that I would EVER give my address or read any fucking letter of the one, the only, Dexter Dickwad. 

  1. I give no shits about your “closure”. No shits are given. 
  2. Your “closure” is never going to fucking happen, because you are inherently dishonest and manipulative and frankly: scary. That doesn’t go away. I’m not the last girl that you will pull bullshit with. 
  3. I will NEVVVVER give you access into my new and might I add fucking great  life that I have built here for myself. 
  4. Especially physical access by giving my ADDRESS. NOPE. NADA. NO WAY.  
  5. Get over it. 

This, officially, positively will be the last post I ever write in regards or pertaining to Dexter.

letitgo

18 Struggles Of Having An Outgoing Personality But Actually Being Shy And Introverted

Essentially the story of my life.

Thought Catalog

This… this is my soul song, people. This is my Vietnam.

1. You’re not anti-social, you’re selectively social.

2. At any given point, you have one (maybe two) best friends who are your entire life. You’re not a “group of friends” person. You can’t keep up with all that.

3. Social gatherings that are supposed to be “rites of passage” like prom and dances and other such typical nonsense is just… not for you. You don’t understand it. You want nothing to do with it.

4. When you do choose to grace a party with your presence, you are the life of it. You’re dancing on the table and doing body shots until 3 a.m.

5. … You then retreat into three days of complete solitude to recover.

6. You go out of your way to avoid people, but when you inevitably have to interact with them, you make it…

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The Data Doesn’t Tell The Whole Story

Data. 

A four letter word that carries a lot of weight. 

A summer’s worth of knowledge, learning, and self-worth mashed together and accumulated into tiny numbers in massive excel spreadsheets. 

My teaching quad has received some extra attention this summer because of our exceptionally low amount of student growth; our bad data

“What do you think students will say about themselves and about how confident they feel in math when walking into their math classes in the fall?” the ATF staff who works as the school manager inquired. It was far too late at night to be having this conversation, but it was essential. I didn’t think our data was that low, I pondered in my own thoughts. 

I didn’t know our data was this horrid, my kids definitely don’t know it either. 

“Cocky,” I spat my opinion before anyone else in my teaching quad could take a breathe. 

“Because they don’t know they are the lowest in terms of our ‘summer growth goal’. I didn’t know we were the lowest. They think they are awesome, amazing, hard working, and incredible because one, they are and because two, we tell them everyday,” I was met with a blank stare. 

“So I think they are going to go into their fall math classes cocky and I think even the quiet ones will be showing the whole class how to do stuff and raising their hands because they will leave our class confident”. 

The data is bad not because of a lack of effort. The data is bad because the content is challenging, we have students with IEPs that we cannot legally receive any information about because we are not yet certified, and because we are brand new, first-year teachers who honestly have improved vastly in three weeks yet still have a lot to learn. 

I’m not ok with having bad data. My teaching quad and myself are working our asses off to enable our kids succeed. But I do know that our bad data does not tell the stories of our kids. It does not tell the story of Tamara, who came in with a lack of basic math skills like adding fractions and negative numbers. It does not tell the story of Douglas, who fights through his ADHD as he stands at a podium in the corner of a room in an attempt to stay focused through 4 hours straight of Algebra a day. It doesn’t tell the story of Montoya, who wrote Buddy (one of the teachers in my quad) a letter about her suicide attempt in the 5th grade and the relentless bullying she faces every day when she walks into school. It doesn’t tell the story of John who wrote nothing down for the first two weeks, turned in every quiz blank, and who now, at the end of the third week, has some of the highest marks on my quizzes. 

Data doesn’t tell the whole story, but I still see its importance. I have to do better by my students so that they can tell at least a portion of their story through the data. 

Like I say every day in class, “If you believe in yourself half as much as I believe in you, you will change the world”. And I know they will. Even if they didn’t “grow” this summer. They still will. 

Did I just say “Our”?

A lot has been happening in the last month. 

And I mean a lot. 

But the other day, something exceptionally monumental occurred. It happened on a Tuesday. 

Kacey, a member of my teaching quad and I were walking from the Union (the place on campus where a lot of people write their lessons plans from around 7:00 pm until 1 in the morning) to the dining hall and talking about the general experience of a ATF org member. 

Fun. Exhausting. Eye opening. Hellish. Inspirational. Bonding. 

There’s so many ways to describe the experiences we have been collecting this summer. I’m not exactly sure how it came about, but we also starting talking about the experiences that other org members have had at their summer training in different parts of the nation. Their stories and experiences just didn’t seem as deeply impactful as our has been. 

“It would be so very different to not be in a rural area and to go through all of this in say, New York City,” I contributed. “But the people there probably wouldn’t enjoy the Delta, they might just not understand our community here”. 

I stopped. Dead in my tracks. 

That just kinda poured out and honestly, I was kind of worried I had just insulted Kacey seeing as though she is from the Delta herself and I literally just got here like, yesterday. 

“Look at me,” I broke the silence, “saying ‘our’ and all like I’ve been here forever” I added shyly. 

“You are from here now!” Kacey belted with joy and she gave be a loving pat on my shoulder. 

And y’all, she’s right. I consider myself a part of this community now and I love it! I want to be from here. I want to be a proud Mississippian. I want to love the Delta and love my students and love running into them and their families at the grocery store and love on a place that is so full of love already. 

I think I’m well on my way. 

An Extroverted Introvert

Confession: I’m secretly an introvert. 

No one would ever really know it, unless you look really close. I am outgoing, I enjoy meeting new people, I’m talkative and rather loud.

But I recharge by being alone. I love doing things by myself. I love being around people from 9-5, but after that, I love to be around  absolutely no one. In fact, I get pissed and extremely irritated if my alone time, my “me time”, my rituals of recharging are violated.

Going to the gym and exercising was my “me time” for a long time. That is until my friends began tagging along every fucking time. My room was my “me place”, until people starting coming in and coming over at their convenience. Eating breakfast alone every morning in my university’s dining hall was my “me time” until random friends began to sit with me to “catch up and chat”. Get the fuck away from me. This is my me time. Shoo. 

But I can’t say that to anyone. I can’t tell anyone that or explain myself because people do not understand an extroverted introvert. People don’t have a lot of tangible experiences with people like me. “But you’re so social!” they would exclaim, but what they don’t know is that I’m only able to be that way after I’ve had my hours and hours of independent and silent recharge time.

I have spent approximately 4 weeks surrounded by masses and masses of people. I’m bursting at my seams to get some quiet time and my own fucking space. It is exhausting. Everyone wants to talk. Everyone wants to just exist next to each other. I have no desire for either of these options… I’m around people and talking from 6:30 am until 11:00 pm every god damn day.

I went to the isolated and undiscovered second floor of the library to work and to chill. That lasted a few days before some crazy, chatty bitch followed me up there and “discovered” a great new working space. It’s now crowded with chatty bitch and her 8 chatty friends… Fuck.

I can’t go to my room because my roommate literally never leaves. I’ve never even seen her in the printing lab or copy center… I don’t know how she has been doing her lesson plans for the past 2 weeks… No idea.

That is why, I went to visit my sister this weekend. She lives 3 hours away. She is pretty damn similar to me in the sense that we both have no need to speak or socialize to feel fine about ourselves. We can literally sit and relax, watch a movie, do absolutely nothing, for hours on end with little-to-no verbal communication.

It was exactly what I needed. But still, it was too short.

Because here I came, back to campus, back to ATF social hour feeling fine and recharged. My resting bitch face was slightly less bitchy and life was ok. At least so I thought.

That was until I walk into my dorm room and my fucking roommate is cuddling her god damn boyfriend who is visiting for the weekend. I should have requested to have my own room. I thought angrily.

I fucking hate people 90% of the time. 

 

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Living and Learning: Confirming My Identity

 

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Every time I think I have perfected a lesson plan, I come to learn that I am very, very wrong.

Every time I think I’m a “big fish in a small pond”, I come to learn how amazing the people I am surrounded are. It is humbling and it is refreshing.

Every time I think that I have mastered a new level of patience with my increasingly bothersome dorm-mate, I come to learn that my patience is still very, very thin.

Every time I think that I have improved my resting bitch face and have intentionally appeared to be more social, I come to learn that I still look angry and intimidating.

Every time I think that I have made a new friend, I come to learn that a significant majority of people make me feel suffocated and claustrophobic. I don’t do needy people. They stress me out.

Every time I am around a person who is inherently negative, I come to learn that my positive pants might as well be tattooed on because there’s no changing my innate mindset.

Every time I’m tested, I come to learn that this is who I am. Embrace it. Don’t fight it. Enjoy it.

XOXO,

Sara Wildes

 

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Fairly Certain They Just Might Change the World

Confession: I have the best teaching quad and Org. Member Advisor (OMA).

Between the four of us, we (attempt to) teach 18 high school students Algebra I. Each and every one of the other teachers in my quad are the most amazing, sincere, humble, and inspirational human beings. I’m fairly certain that they just might change the world.

And my OMA, don’t even get me started! This man is insightful, caring, warm hearted, and damn good at what he does. I am so thankful. His name is Aaron and I adore him. I’ll never stop learning from him, he’s that kind of great.

Because all I have heard so far is horror stories.

Teaching quads getting into fights. Teaching quads hating each other. Teaching quads with know-it-alls. Teaching quads with lazy slackers. OMAs that undermine the whole ATF experience. OMAs that are harsh and unsupportive. OMAs that aren’t very accessible or available.

My quad however, is golden. I have Catherine, a South Louisiana corp member and a bad ass from New York City. Buddy, another bad ass from Biloxi, Mississippi. And finally, there is Kacey. Sorry quad, but Kacey is the most bad ass and I adore her. She is from the Delta. She’s back to teach and she is damn, damn, DAMN good at what she does. I learn from all three of them every day. We get along. We are real friends. And I really respect them.

Every morning, Buddy and I eat our breakfast together in the dining hall before the other org members that teach at our school get there. We both don’t like to feel late. Every morning, Buddy plays gospel music on his iPhone for us as we eat and preaches nothing but positivity. It’s our special time and it starts me off feeling like I can, we can, do anything.

It’s exhausting, don’t get me wrong. But I am so invested. We have jokingly named ourselves Team Aaron and Team Aaron is so invested. I don’t sleep a lot. I don’t blog a lot. I write a lot of lesson plans that I don’t exactly use because you cannot plan for the exact direction the kids will guide your class. But I don’t mind all the stress and late nights.

Because so far, I’m having the time of my life.

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And then, it Happened.

I just finished my first week in the classroom as an ATF teacher. In the midst of the ups and downs of the roller coaster that has been my first week as a teacher, I discovered something: I love this. 

I love teacher jokes and #teacherprobz, I love planning a lesson, I love leading a classroom, I love learning, and most importantly, I love these my kids. 

Yes, one week in and I’m already claiming them as my own. Because I can and because I see the smallest part of myself in every single one of them.

Especially Douglas.

Douglas, by most descriptions, would be classified as “a little shit”. He’s hyperactive, he distracts on tasks students, he talks back. He’s me. I am Douglas. We come from different worlds, but we are one in the same. He’s smart too. So smart that he’s bored.

It only took three days before he reached the 4th consequence in my 50 minute lesson that I instruct daily: a phone call home. The numbers he provided on his student survey were fake, so I went digging through registration records and found his mom’s phone number. Haha! Nothing gets past me, Douglas! I snickered.

Like the nervous little first year teacher that I am, I consulted two mentors and constructed a full length script before I dialed the number. Once in touch with his sweet mama, she informed me of his ADHD and I asked for what has worked for him in the past and some insights since she is, after all, an expert on her son.

“Keep him busy,” she instructed. “Keep him challenged”.

I can do that.

He’s the sweetest too. Each time he’s getting out of hand (which only takes about 30 minutes into my lessons), we have a little chat in my most forced and practiced “relationship building voice” and, like magic, he turns himself around.

He would never tell me or show me, but another teacher in my teaching quad (a group of 4 teachers that work together over the summer) told me that he loves me and that I’m the only one that has gotten successful work out of him yet this week.

This, was the ultimate win. 

Obviously, I still have a ton of work to do and a ton of growing. This week, I have repeatedly failed my students. But I can only get better and I can’t wait to work hard and pour more of my sweat, blood, and tears into this jobs and these kids. Because this is what I’m suppose to do, and I know that because I love it.

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Out of Body Experiences

Shout to meeting the author of Chasing Piggens tonight! #mindblown #sohumbled