Category Archives: Learning

Intend to Win

In early spring, I pledged a two-year commitment to Teach For America, a movement that fights to close the opportunity/achievement gap in low-income communities across the nation.

Becoming a teacher has always been a goal of mine. Some of the most influential people in my life have been teachers. The people who taught me in high school and college served as advocates and allies during a critical season of my life. It’s no wonder I wanted to join their ranks. I’ll be teaching elementary at Satchel Paige in the fall.

To say that teaching is a thankless and difficult profession would be a serious understatement. Some have asked why I would put myself through the rigor and trial-by-fire that is educating in low-income schools.

Simply put: because it’s work worth doing.

This is not a knock on any of my previous jobs. Quite the opposite. Every job I’ve held in the past built upon prior knowledge and helped me develop a skill set that is perfect for teaching. When I realized that TFA was an option for me, my focus became laser-like. I began to reverse-engineer and take the steps that would make me a great candidate for the TFA organization. Even the jobs I disliked illustrated a sort of ‘divine discontent’ to motivate me to seek work that suited my views and strengths better.

This is chance to attack the inequity that is systemic in America, to kick open doors of opportunity for students that will not walk through them otherwise. If I’m to leave a mark on the world, this is the first scratch I’ll make. Every child has value.

This next season of life will be challenging to say the least. Heck, even this last season was tough. I just completed five consecutive weeks of training in Tulsa, Oklahoma (teaching summer school and packing my brain full of strategies I’ll use heavily in the fall).

Luckily, I have a support system of friends, family and mentors that will be in my corner, cheering me on. My church community, my girlfriend and my new collaborators from TFA all champion this path I’m on. I feel sturdier than I have in the past. Some of the most vocal members of ‘Team Garrett’ are former — you guessed it — teachers.

I’m doing this because I can. Or maybe I can’t. Either way, I plan to reach my full potential as a communicator and as a encourager. I want my students to reach their potentials as citizens and innovators. Who knows whether the ‘problem child’ in my classroom might go on to invent new energy sources or cure diseases or colonize the moon.

Speaking of the moon, this excerpt from JFK’s speech on September 12, 1962 puts it well:

“We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.”

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And…we’re back.

It’s been almost 7 months since my last post. I won’t bother with excuses. Suffice to say, I’ve been busy sweating and toiling trying to realize some of the philosophies I only pontificated about last year. This post is less of a triumphant return to blogging and more of a casual greeting to friends I haven’t hung with in a while.

So, hello.

In the past several months, my life has been in an almost constant state of flux. I feel like I’m being melted down and remade into a better me. The transformation is still happening and I’m looking forward to eventually establishing a New Normal. I’ve started and stopped two significantly stressful jobs (at non-profits), and now I’m in Tulsa, Oklahoma training to be a urban teacher for Teach for America. Essentially, it’s a boot camp for guerrilla educators. My mind is a barely-zippable, overpacked suitcase, crammed full of new facts and statistics, voodoo pedagogy, names of new acquaintances and authors whose writings I should ingest sooner than later.

People often ask, “How is it there in Tulsa.?” They mean well. It’s difficult to answer with equal parts excitement for a new chapter in life and unrivaled homesickness. I usually answer, ‘It’s OK,’ (silently congratulating myself for making a clever pun). In truth, I am thrilled to be actualizing a plan that has been over a year in the works. I am willing to put myself through the unpaid rigor and strain of 5am wake-ups and midnight bedtimes for weeks straight for the benefit of children here in Tulsa. I’m tolerate of the massive info-dumps that are ever-present when emails and soft copies would kill less trees and less hours. I’m more or less a willing participant in the rounds and rounds of ‘reflection sessions’ that TFA seems to revel in when most of us prefer to process internally and alone.

I sure do miss home. It’s been about a month since I’ve seen my home and those I care for most. Every day that passes I feel myself becoming more calloused and steeled from the emotions of home-sickness. It’s a survival instinct, I presume. No matter the ‘fun’ that might occur here, it’s still occurring 243 miles from the people and places that inspire me and replenish my energies. This is why I normally prefer short vacations or ‘stay-cations.’ I love being home.

The good news is: every hour that passes I’m closer to completing this summer program and returning to Kansas City.

 

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Random Drawings

My hyperactive imagination seems to hijack my thoughts at the most inopportune times (during staff meetings, church, and less than exciting conversations). Additionally, I’ve loved to draw since I was a young boy. I am a notorious doodler and tinkerer. I used to add robots and jet planes to the illustrations in my first Bible. I couldn’t be bothered by the impossibility of Moses having robot canines on his rocket-powered Ark. So it’s not surprising that as a teacher, I often create wacky activity sheets for my students at the Boys and Girls Club to help them tap into their inner artistic weirdo. I thought I’d share the the sheets themselves and the examples that I worked up for them. Admittedly, I was just looking for an excuse to draw strange and wonderful faces, figures, and hairstyles*.

* All art created with pencil, pen, and markers. Shadows and backgrounds were added digitally.

 

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Monday Pep Talk

Today, shift your focus.

Shift your focus away from distractions and back to your purpose.

To your calling.

To your dreams.

Find a place to serve. Give some of your life away.

Be present.

Teach.

Learn.

Do both simultaneously.

Smile today.

Smile; even in the chaos.

Embrace the chaos.

Embrace being challenged.

Embrace being changed.

Did you think it would be easy?

This?

Finding your purpose?

Finding it then living it out?

It’s not easy, and it was never meant to be.

Will you persevere?

Will you reject what is good to pursue what is great?

Pursue greatness and become greater.

Become better. Become more.

See your influence and vision expanded.

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