Monday, September 6, 2010

Seeing God

I've always been really susceptible to overt emotion, be it in song, literature, or TV and film. I will watch something that most viewers find pretty cheesy, but for me, it seems to open up emotions that I struggle with in real life. I attest this to living a few moments behind the present, and needing to think about a situation, sometimes minutes or sometimes hours, to realize what the correct emotional response should be. This can have it's upsides, but none the less, it seems to be the culprit for my boarder line unhealthy emotional investment in pop culture. I guess with TV, the emotion comes easy because the characters' faces and words paint the picture, and if that isn't a hint enough, the accompanying music and light will fill in the missing blanks. Reading is the same, with the crystal clear depictions written by a famed author, tied with the fact that I'm already locked up in my head, soaking in every word. I joked with my friends about how I needed a few days to recover after watching the last episode of Dexter, but having just found a profound description of the causes of modern day terrorism through dialogue between vampires in True Blood, I don't think it is much of a joke.

Since a life changing trip to Uganda in 2007, where I found a book that has forever changed my life and discovered how seeing the 5th Harry Potter movie in theaters could spark a strong spiritual revelation, I've always been a firm believer that God, Allah, or which ever deity you choose to follow, speaks to each person through their own individual medium. For some people, that is the more traditional route. This happens with differing texts for the differing religions, as well as places of worship and ritual. But for me, as silly as it sounds, it has always been through hidden (or fabricated) messages I find in books, TV, song, or simple conversation.

Since June 12th, I have devoted my life, health, well-being, free time, and any other aspect of my life to a program called Teach For America. I'll be brutally honest in the fact that TFA is by far the hardest thing I have ever done. To be part of this program you have to pick up and leave everything you know, move to a new state for a week, find friends to move in with, then spend 5 weeks in a DIFFERENT state sleeping 5 hours a night or less learning how to teach lesson plans, only to find out all your students pass regardless of the work they put in. Then, you come back to the place where you had first been moved to and start fixing your house with kids you barely know. All the while, you are hoping you get placed in a school before the semester starts. From this point, you are put in front of a classroom with little to no teaching experience, left to figure out what resources, textbooks, curriculum, and other necessary supplies you have, where your kids are at with reading and math, what your administration expects, what your grade level expects, what TFA expects, and what the district expects. This is all on top of getting used to a new area, having children yell in your face, trying to find a balance in your personal life, and realizing how unprepared you really are. TFA is no walk in the park, and I will be the first to admit that, not only am I unprepared on the teaching front, but I really had no idea what I was getting myself into when I signed the two year contract.

I wish I could do the first 2.5 months of the program justice, but when 2 months seems more like 2 years, and I realize that this week will ONLY mark a month of teaching in St. Louis, I don't think any words can really describe the experience. But what I can say is this; for me, the only way I can get through these next two years is with a strong support system, a belief in a higher power, and finding reasons for what I see each day. I've been blessed with a great family, supportive friends, a great girlfriend, and in my region, 2 really really supportive roommates and a solid group of friends to cope with. But without a strong faith and a learned medium to discover that faith, I don't think I could survive. My first 2 weeks were really hard because I had never struggled like this. I have never felt so weak before, and have never needed so much. But until I acknowledged this weakness, and realized I needed to find positive ways to cope, life was unbearable. I know not everyone has the same belief in a higher being that I do, but regardless, finding one's own medium to understanding is essential. My Dad has always talked about the importance of faith, family, and friends, and though faith for me has always meant a God (whatever he, she, it may look like) faith doesn't have to be otherworldly. Faith can be a belief in those friends or family you surround yourself with. It can be a belief in the idea of nothing being connected, or that everything is connected, or that everything happens by chance. Faith can be anything. Really, anything at all. But the only thing I can say I know with 100% certainty is that for me, unless there is something in which I feel real comfortable betting all my chips on, life seems pretty bleak.

I'm sure many people would like to hear more about the TFA experience (which will come cuz i'm gonna update a lot now!), but this has been the culmination of the days between June 12th and now for me. I'm alive and decently healthy, and I'm learning what it takes to fit math, reading, science, social studies, writing, handwriting, and spelling into a 5th grade class each day.

apparently we can't post pictures of students :/
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