Sunday, January 29, 2006

Another year in the Teacher Corps???

As January comes to a close, and only four months of school lie ahead of me before summer, I think it is time for some truths. It's time to sit down and evaluate not only how well and/or poorly the past 6 months have gone, but also to evaluate the time that lies ahead. Of course, with any reflection, there must be a foundation. So here it goes.

I've learned so much about myself over the past 6 months. I've learned how much I'm willing to sacrafice for something in which I believe so strongly. I've learned that I am more of an easy going, relaxed person than I had ever been in the past. I've also learned that my breaking point has come and gone without me even realizing it. This academic year has been full of ups and downs for me just as it has been for most of my fellow teacher corps members. Some highlights: getting through to certain students whom I thought would never see graduation day; Joking around with my students about the little things in life and imparting some wisdom (well, at least the little that I think I may have) about how integrity, honesty and compassion are values that will get you further than selfishness, greed and "the here and now" attitude; and finally, acutally sharing my passion for science with some of my students (I still can't believe I'm a high school teacher.) While these highlights are truly great, and will provide lasting memories, I don't believe that they can overshadow the challenges.

I don't like being a disciplinarian. It's not me. In many cases, I find myself disciplining students for things that I did in high school. How hypocritical is that?! I don't like the fact that the counselors stick all the "troubled" kids in my class just because I'm a first year teacher. And I don't like giving students every minute of my day, before and after school when they don't want to be there anyway. It's frustrating.

I've learned that I am not cut out to be a teacher for the rest of my life. It's just not for me. Fortunately, I won't have to. I recently was accepted to medical school. The question now is whether or not I should defer matriculation into medical school for a year to finish out the Teacher Corps program. Ben said that it is fantastic that no one has left the program. I can't imagine someone quitting in the middle of the school year. I surely won't quit before the summer arrives. There's no way. However, I find that I really have to put some careful consideration into whether or not I'll be coming back next year. There are many pros and cons to staying the course and finishing up the program before I enter medical school, not the least of which is the fact that I made a committment. I have never been one to back out of a committment, but we're talking a year of my life. Is it worth the unhappiness that it creates? Teaching isn't all bad. I like many aspects of it such as those I mentioned above. I would love to be involved with aspects of education other than teaching and I think the lessons I'm learning now as a teacher will make me a much more informed citizen, not to mention a better physician.

In the coming blogs, I'm going to try to type my way to an answer. I'm going to put my thoughts out in front of the corps, and reevaluate my plan later in the spring. I'm at a real loss right now.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Death needs to take a day off...

This year has been rough. No, I'm not talking about how I spend every waking moment trying to figure out how to increase my students' achievement...that'll be in the next blog. Aren't you excited? This year has been extremely rough on my students. Last week one of our students was killed in a car accident. That is the third confirmed (fourth unconfirmed...there was a rumor that one of last year's graduates committed suicide but I haven't confirmed that rumor yet.) death this year. First, the softball coach and a teacher (just down the hall from my room) passed away suddenly after an anyerism. He was in his early thirties with two young daughters. His death really hit home for me because he was so young. As naive as this may sound, young people aren't supposed to die unexpectedly. Old people die; people who have lived full, long and rich lives. Not this time.

Second, one of my very own students passed away unexpectedly. He played football with some friends after school and took a serious blow to his side. A few hours later at the football awards banquet, he collapsed and died. His spleen had ruptured. I witnessed his last hours as he sat in my class. He asked me a couple questions about the test he was going to take the next day. The conversation was routine and nothing out of the ordinary. As he left my class, I certainly wasn't thinking that I'd never see him alive again.

Life is so fragile. John, the football player who had died, certainly wasn't expecting to die suddenly with no opportunity to say goodbye to his family and friends. Nor did Humberto, the aforementioned victim of the car accident and neither did Coach Hunter, the teacher who died suddenly after an aneurysm. Each day must be lived to its fullest and there is no time for unhappiness. Spending time with loved ones should be my priority especially because one never knows when their time will come. With each death, I reevaluate the condition of my life. Am I where I want to be? Am I spending my time wisely? What if I died tomorrow? Would I be remembered as the finace or son who was always too busy? There are no simple answers to these questions. I spend much of my waking hours working on school work. Those who tell me that I shouldn't take work home with me are crazy. I'd never leave school. Even at night when my fiance has some down time, I am still struggling to plan lessons, to make learning fun and interesting, to grade papers, or to get my own homework done. I rarely find time to relax and spend time with those I love most. Furthermore, I find that because I am teaching and living in northern Mississippi, I am cut off from many of my fellow MTC peers who teach some 2-3 hours to the south of me. Spending time with them is rarely an option. So I find myself wrapped up in my work praying for some spare time to come my way. Unfortunately, the days aren't getting any longer.

So my prayer to God is to get me through this semester and through June (MTC classes) so that I can have at least a few weeks to call my own. Weeks when I can spend time with my finance and catch up with MTC friends. I pray that my students will live life to the fullest and if anything good can come from three deaths I hope that they learn to put life events into perspective. I hope that they can focus less on popularity, drugs, sex and alcohol and more on meaningful relationships and personal triumphs (such as good grades and althletic accomplishments). Most of all, I hope that they won't have to lose any more of their friends to unexpected and tragic circumstances.