Tuesday, September 15, 2009

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I may have made the biggest mistake of my life doing Teach for America.

I am terrible. Terrible. I have no authority and I don't know how to get it back. I will tell the students to do something and they laugh at me. Another teacher will walk in and say the same thing and it's done without a peep.

I am a basket case. I have Teach for America staff sitting in on my class nearly every day of the week.

I can't remember the last day I didn't cry. I am dreaming about my students - even in my sleep, they don't listen.

And I'm stuck for two years.


ola said...

Hi Lisa.

I don't know much about teaching in US, so that instead of commenting about how I think you will be really good teacher (I'm convinced about it!) I will write you about my !dear catastrophe med student" beginnings.

I am VERY clumsy when I am nervous and doing something for the first time. I have social anxiety. I get terribly red when I am self-conscious (nearly everytime when dealing with new patient). I am slowly perfectionsist. I am shy as hell and so on. And still I want to be a doctor.
My first weeks in practical training I was always absofuckinglutely positive about giving up. I was convinced it would be better for both me and my future patients. I was crying. I felt like biggest failure ever.
Then, second week or so I realized that I have no stomach ache when entering my patients room and that I don't think about how clumsy I am during examination. I was examinating, measuring blood pressure, drawing blood, talking to people. I wasn't controlling everything thousandtimes. I was crying less and less. There are still tons of things I need to work on, but it takes time.
There will be tougher and better days. Lovely students and complicated students. Up and downs. Always.
But do it. You still want to do it. And you will do great!

Sarah said...


Are there people you know who are further in the program that could help you deal with these feelings and address some of your problems? I know it has been a huge struggle for my friend, but she eventually figured out some classroom management strategies. Does TFA have any sort of mentorship program where you can talk about this?


bluecat said...

Hi Lisa,

I just completed two years of teaching via NYC teaching fellows (same idea as TFA), and I just wanted to say that you can't judge what the next two years are like based on the first few weeks! Not saying it will be easy, but there will be progress, and you'll also get used to some things maybe not meeting your initial expectations. Try to figure out ways to decompress and take your mind off school in the evenings or at least on the weekends - it's really crucial to surviving the experience in a healthy manner. I think you'll be fine. But, if after a semester or a year you decide that the job is taking too much of a toll and you can't continue in a healthy manner, you can leave the program - it's really not the worst thing in the world and for some people, it might be the more mature decision. It would be foolish to continue at the cost of your health, for example. I'm not implying that I think you won't succeed; every indication i've gotten from reading your blog tells me you will will adapt and you will be able to make a difference in kids' lives. At the same time, you shouldn't feel like you have no free will in the matter or that you're "stuck" for two years.

-Rebecca (1st time commenter, longer time reader)