The Last Blog (finally...): My MTC Experience
My MTC experience has been a long roller coaster ride. A unique one. Where the roller coaster only rises 20 feet off the ground but drops to 50 feet below.
So you’re in this roller coaster and it goes underground and you’re thinking to yourself, “What?? How can the ride get this low? How can it be like this? Who thought this up?? Bad idea!!” and you have dirt in your eyes, your ears, up your nose, in your shoes… everywhere. And you’re just waiting for the next ascent, so you can get above ground, breathe (gasp, really), dust the dirt off because you’re trying to find yourself, your clothes, your body, in all this mess (which is pointless because you’re going to get dirty again in a few seconds). And you go through this process with every descent and ascent. Eventually you start thinking you can prepare yourself for going underground so it won’t be so bad. You try different things to hopefully minimize the “suckiness” of the time you’re spending underground: you stiffen your body to reduce the number of crevices the dirt can lodge itself in; you’ve figured out the “perfect” hand swipe movement and leg shake that remove the dirt the quickest and most thoroughly. But in the end, all of these tactics seem pointless because you’re still on this awful roller coaster ride that goes underground… all the time.
I came to Mississippi with no expectations because I knew that nothing something would happen that wouldn't meet my expectation; it just wasn't a good idea. My first week here, I went to a welcoming party for the 1st years in the program and got chiggers, basically a bug infestation in your body. They burrow under you skin (very inconspicuously!) and leave at their own leisure. I had bites all over my feet and legs; one day the itching pain was so bad I had to get a shot of “Numb Me Up” so I could 1) stop tearing up from the pain, 2) walk at a speed greater than one mile per hour, 3) not resent being awake and, furthermore, in Mississippi. Perhaps I should have taken this as a hint and left with Anne…
Teaching summer school was nice. It made me feel like teaching was something I could be good at, that my first year as a teacher would be horrifying but okay in the end. But when school actually started in August, I was angry, bewildered, and just happy if I made it through a day of teaching alive. A small part of me was even angry to have had the summer school experience. It was not at all enough preparation for the school year. My first year was ridiculous. I was overworked (as are many teachers and many people in the program), provided very little guidance, received more assistance and sympathy from my two retired mentor teachers than from my own principal, and was humiliated by my principal on numerous occasions, both as an individual and part of a group. This same administrator would then expect me to perform on the same level as other teachers that she had come to favor, or at least respect. I had to leave the school.
Teaching summer school came and went again. I moved, bought a new computer with the money that I saved up (I was so proud of myself), even got a new cat! I was definitely above ground at this point, but I was only there for about two weeks. My students were failing. Yes. But what truly put my year on the path of misery was an elective class I was teaching. I had people failing the course for two reasons: there was no curriculum for the class so I was making it up as I went along, and many students didn’t pay proper attention during class so they wouldn’t care about an assignment that I’d said was worth a test grade, that sort of thing. I had a number of meetings with administrators, and in the end, I was told that I should do whatever and teach however my mentor teacher does in her classes. (Note: the mentor teacher doesn’t even teach the same elective class as I do, which is what started all these meetings in the first place.) For the most part, I’ve been doing as I was told just to avoid a claim of insubordination, but I have given my students extra work or changed assignments when necessary.
So as a recap, I’ve bee underground since mid-August. While hoping that this ride (teaching, the program, being in Mississippi) would not any worse, it did. Of course. I was in a car accident right at the beginning of a well-deserved break and right before final projects were due for my graduate courses. The dang car flipped, it was totaled beyond repair, and I was pretty mashed up myself. Family flew down from the North to take care of me when I couldn’t do it myself. It wasn’t any kind of vacation. I wasn’t well for about 10 days (I returned to work days after the vacation was over). I didn’t have a car for two months, depending on others to go anywhere and everywhere. I was so angry to have been in the accident because it took a toll on everything: my job (staying at school to get work done was no longer an option, nor was tutoring and early-morning copying), my school (I didn‘t have time to complete my finals and needed to make them up during what was supposed to be my semester off), my emotional well-being (which was already rocky: I’m normally an emotional mess as a teacher).
But somehow, it’s mid-January and I can breathe again: I’ve got a car, I’m making up those course credits, tutoring is back on. I was used to the irrational behavior exhibited by students, teachers, and administrators alike so that wasn’t a problem. The ascent continues. But the ride plummets again: with just weeks between me and the academic finish line, my laptop--the one that made me so proud of myself--was stolen. I’ve found some temporary replacement for the technology, but not for all the work that had been saved on it with no back up. What has bothered me most about the theft has not even been its occurrence, but the audacity of a student to do such a thing, considering how much of myself I have sacrificed for my job. This is where I am: searching for a way above ground and hoping I’m in one piece when I get there.
I have never been so tried as I have been these past two years. There has been a lot of bad that I’ve been endured since being down South, but there has also been some good that’s worth an honorable mention. I’ve met some great people through this program. Some of them have been representatives and speakers at functions or in classes. Others have been program participants that I can now truly call friends. These individuals have been the saving grace of my entire experience. A number of speakers managed to remind me, just in the nick of time, that it’s important for me to be here. And I have had close friends around me during some of my most desperate and lonely moments. And as strong as I am, I know that it would’ve been much harder for me to make it through these years without them. So I don’t regret my time here. I regret many of the events that have taken place, but I can appreciate the experience overall. I have learned more about myself and my ability as a teacher, and have identified my hopes for the futures of children in the US and for myself. I think this kind of reflection is important, so I don’t think I can truly regret my time here.
But man, I can’t wait to get off this ride and take a shower.