The Spark

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Dec 25 2011

Not a Creature Is Stirring…

…except for this new TFA blogger. : )


Beginning a blog seems like an odd way to spend a Christmas Eve, especially for someone like me who has never even successfully kept a diary and breaks most technology by glancing at it.  I’m here in a spare bedroom at my parents’ house, with everyone else already asleep as I’m munching on some cookie dough I snitched from the fridge and staring at this screen.  Ah well, I’ve been quietly reading the blogs on this site for at least a year now, and I consider this new blog of my own a Christmas present to myself.

But where to begin?

I think it would be easier to write something if I was already in the thick of TFA prep – wearily recounting my jam-packed Institute schedule, lamenting a last minute shift at my placement school, or joyfully describing a student who has overcome a major obstacle.

But I’m not.  The only thing I’ve done for TFA in the last few weeks has been to send an updated photo.  Perhaps that’s why I felt the need to start this blog now.  I’m craving anything that will make this process seem more real, more immediate.  Any of my friends will tell you that I’m not very good at the waiting game.  I also have the feeling that once I am in the thick of things, I might feel amused and possibly irritated to look back and read about at my current need for more things to do.

Anyway, consider yourself duly warned that these next few posts will most likely be very boring.  Check back in around June if you’re looking for more action-packed material.  ; )

In the meantime, I think some introductions are in order.

I’m 25, and a few years out of college – part of what TFA dubs the “Professionals and Grad Students in the Corps” group.  I majored in Writing and Art in a small liberal arts college in Indiana.  My dream had always been to write and illustrate children’s books.  I still may someday, but the more I started working with children, the more I realized I preferred to interact with them in person rather than through the pages of a book.

(quick side note: I am always a bit nervous to reveal that I am a Writing major while completing any written endeavor.  I think it sets up a lot of expectations.  Let’s be clear from the beginning, this blog will definitely contain errors.  Though I find grammar fascinating and consider proofreading others’ writing to be enjoyable and relaxing, I am notoriously bad at editing my own stuff. )

I currently work for the Children’s Museum of Evansville, lovingly abbreviated to cMoe (yes, the system of capitalization in that acronym makes no sense) as their Director of Education and Community Outreach.  I coordinate the educational programs at the museum, including performers, art projects, science demos, field trips, scout badge workshops, our Homeschool Science Club, We Can! Health and Fitness Club, and our Spring and Summer Camp.  I also get to work directly with many of the area schools – serving on committees, leading school assemblies, and bringing activities to their afterschool programs.  Oh, and sometimes I get to dress up as our dinosaur mascot, a paleontologist, a princess, or a spy.

I love my job, I really do.  My teacher friends tell me how lucky I am not to be governed by standardized tests or fickle administrations.  To a point I agree with them - I recognize that I have immense freedom in the programs I plan.  But the bottom line is, I work with anywhere from 20,00 – 40,000 kids a year.  A handful are regulars who sign up for many activities and camps and who visit the museum every couple weeks.  But the VAST majority I see for just a fleeting moment.  And some of those moments are a scary glimpse into their everyday reality.

Like the 2nd grader who painted amazing pictures at my arts and crafts table, but seemed incredibly confused when I asked if he wanted to go to an art school someday.  “I only need to get through 8th grade and then I can be a coal miner like my dad,” he explained.

Or when I encouraged a 5th grade boy attempting to launch a rocket off of a straw to use his lungs and he replied, “What are lungs?”

Or sitting through a meeting at one of my main schools where I find out that out of about 600 students, at least 80 are documented as homeless (though there are likely many more that have not yet come forward, or who are living in motels or with friends), 100 have parents in the school-run meth addiction recovery program, and not only do almost all the students qualify for free or reduced lunch, but over half also qualify for the backpack program that sends food home over the weekend with students who would likely not get much else.

I know these are probably nothing compared to the stories that a classroom teacher witnesses.  But I consistantly get the feeling that I’m outside a window, looking in on a horrific scene that I am powerless to affect.  I am longing to focus my attention and energy on a smaller group of students, to learn their names, hopes, and obstacles.  Even if the only thing I can do is become a steady, comforting presence in their lives, then that is what I will do.

And then, of course, I long to create that “Spark,” the namesake of this blog.  However, that is a topic for another post, as I’ll be rising bright and early tomorrow for spice tea and presents.

Happy Holidays!

3 Responses

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  2. Welcome to the Memphis corps! I’m 2010 Memphis. Feel free to reach out if you have any questions! Merry Christmas!

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Seeking to ignite that "spark" in all students

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