A Blog Covering D.C. Education [ABCDE]

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Aug 03 2010

“Now is the Time”

Summer brings with it transitions of various kinds. First, a climatic transition, in which the lesson is learned that there is a direct correlation between clothes worn and sweat excreted.  Second, a mental transition, from a state of pure focus to one of less-than-pure-and-more-like-relaxed focus (“it’s summer-time!”).  Third, a physical transition, away from the spaces typically occupied and towards those fascinating, new places that lie around some corners.

I’ve already done my travels.  But now I’m wrapping up a transition of home. My two roommates–both TFA–and I have moved out of our formerly-shiny, new apartment and into a more modest yet homey rowhouse.  We’ve added a 4th roommate–also TFA–to boot.  Having recently completed 25 or so hours of physical labor, I now have time to think about my new abode.  It is strange to think that one year has passed since I first began calling Washington DC my home.  So much, clearly, has changed since that day.

As I was sorting through the stacks of miscellaneous documents–never-sorted mail, scattered notes, magazine clippings, lesson plan outlines–that I had frantically thrown into boxes, I noticed the fluorescence of a bright pink sheet of paper. I unfolded it. It was a letter.

This letter, though, was not just any letter. Unsurprisingly, it was a letter addressed to me.  Surprisingly, I had written it (note: this is perhaps the first letter that I’ve actually written to myself).  On the last day of Institute in Philadelphia (I believe in our final CS session), we were asked to write letters to our future selves–the future selves that, in 4 or 5 months time would be entering that deep and dark phase of disillusionment experienced by first-year teachers.  Our CMA would send this letter to us right around that time in order to boost our morale.  Naively believing in this idea that I could be the exception to this rule, I scribbled a few random thoughts, folded up my sheet, and slipped it into an envelope.  I wouldn’t need this, right?

Obviously, I received this letter in the mail at some point this past year. How else would it have appeared in my paper stack? But I had never put much thought into it. In fact, I don’t even recall re-reading it.  Perhaps at the time I opened it, I already had too many things on my mind: the end-of-semester stress, the winter depression setting in, and the frustrations of an unpredictable and unbelievable teaching lifestyle.

I just re-read this letter. Perhaps you’d like to read it, too.  Perhaps you, too, have just finished Institute and entrusted your own letter to your CMA as a secret weapon to be released when the going gets tough. It is below (click on it to zoom in):

The letter is notable for two reasons.

  • First, it reminds me of the made-famous-by-Baz-Luhrmann “Wear Sunscreen” column by Mary Schmich. I don’t know how I so boldly took on this role of advice-giver–as if my less-than-quarter-century of existence could offer any meaningful advice.  But I did give advice.  And however cliche the advice was, it was true.
  • Second, because it expresses a hope in the future that can only be realized by changing the present.  This is a powerful combination of ideas.  I know I still have this attitude, but I can’t shake the thought that I’ve lost some of the sincerity–the oomph–behind this belief.  Where did it go?

Summer is here and, though it may almost be over, “now is the time”–to borrow the one phrase that I capitalized and underlined--to resurrect that mindset that I had almost exactly one year ago. Here goes.
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2 Responses

  1. I still have my letter– I love how idealistic and dreamy it is, which is at once naively cute and incredibly comforting.

    I recently enjoyed this post about faith in teaching: http://samjshah.com/2010/08/01/lost-faith/ Maybe it’ll be meaningful to you too?

    Best of luck with the new year :)

  2. Just read the link. I agree. Definitely meaningful. Good luck to you too!

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Really, "A Blog Covering Dilemmas in Education": A (former) English teacher's reflections…

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