Pursuing the American Dream in the City of Angels

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Jul 07 2012

3 things I’ve realized so far from teaching

Teaching is hard.  I have so much mad respect for all my past teachers…there is so much endless, underappreciated, behind-the-scenes work that goes into good teaching.

I wanted to take a minute to reflect on 3 things I’ve come to realize from these last few weeks that I personally need to do in order to keep my momentum going.

1. Smile.

Waking up at 5 a.m. to get ready to board a bus to the school I’m teaching at: this has been (and will continue to be) my daily routine.  As much as I disagree with this wake-early lifestyle, as well as many other things that I’ve had to change in my lifestyle due to my new career, I began to realize that there was no point in whining.  I’m generally optimistic by nature, but I’ve been reminding myself I need to smile more.  Smile when I hear my wakeup alarm…because it means it’s the start of a new day to make a difference for my students.  Smile when I board my bus in the morning…because I’m lucky to not have to personally drive through stressful traffic to get to work.  Smile when things don’t go according to plan, whether that means the printer doesn’t work when I need to print my lesson plans, or not all my students show up to class…because at the end of the day, I am so grateful for the job I have right now.  Not only am I pursuing my dream career of teaching, I’m doing it through the national AmeriCorps Teach For America program, and I was lucky enough to have gotten my first preference for regional assignment (Los Angeles), subject area (general education/multiple subjects), and grade level (elementary).  Smile.  And besides, smiling is contagious. :)

2. Simplify.          

There’s always so much going on at Teach For America and in my life in general, so I need to boil everything down to the bare essentials.  Am I getting enough sleep at night?  Am I eating breakfast in the morning?  Am I carving out time to reconnect with old friends who aren’t affiliated with Teach For America?  I know what makes me tick and keeps me sane admist all the hard work and stress…I just need to remind myself to do it.  There is nothing that recharges my batteries more, for example, than spending time by the ocean or dancing the night away.  Simplify and get to the bare essentials: I need to aim for success, not perfection.  There is always going to be a random YouTube video that I could watch a little more of, a lesson plan that I could revise a little more, a worksheet that I could decorate a little more, an already-organized work desk that I could organize a little more.  Gotta remind myself: sometimes, good enough…is good enough.

3. Students.

They’re the reason I’m here.  I can’t forget that.  I want to be a teacher to make a difference in the lives of kids.  The students I teach are absolutely amazing; they are so bright and capable of great things, but they need to believe in themselves first.  One of my students aspires to be a doctor, possibly a cardiologist, and she dreams of going to UCLA for college.  Another student has special needs and trouble focusing in class, but he is a fantastic artist and so I’m using his passion for art to drive his interest towards his schoolwork.  I truly believe that all my students will be able to reach their life dreams, but I do realize that I’m not the only variable in this equation: I also need to invest in their parents (even if that means having constant conversations with them in my far-from-perfect Spanish) and motivate my students to believe in themselves.  But they’re what keeps me going.  Students.  I wouldn’t be here without them.

One day, all children in this nation will have the opportunity to attain an excellent education.

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