Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Teach For America!

what crazy person thinks i should teach young children!?

Its official!! I'm moving back to TEXAS in February 2009!!!

I found out last week I was accepted to Teach for America and will be teaching elementary school in HISD for the next two years!! WOO HOO!!I know that me applying for TFA is uber-random, but living in D.C. has opened my eyes to alot– that I want to make a difference in someone's life, and be able to pass on the blessings that have so filled my life. I'll recommend Teach for America's website to learn more in replace of me rambling, but their mission -to bridge the education gap between low and high income schools, the "haves" and the "have-nots"-is so inspiring!

I discussed in my application how living in D.C. has opened my eyes to the hypocrisy of America's education system. Within walking distance of the Capitol building, schools have insufficient resources and astoundingly high drop out rates. The problem can't completely be solved by the government, the schools, or TFA – some of it will have to happen at homes, in society. But TFA is making huge strides towards education equality, and I am THRILLED to be a part of the movement.

If I can reach one student during each of my two years in the classroom, I think my experience with TFA will be worth it. And, chances are, I'll reach each of them, some of them in big ways, most of them in small ways. I can't wait to meet these kids, to love them and teach them.

I do not want to wake up twenty years from now and wonder what I've done with my life, what kind of difference I've made. I look around and I see this great need for passionate teachers and for reform in the entire education system – and in society, too. Teach for America calls its applicants to TAKE ACTION! Not wait for the next opportunity that may come along.

I'm aware that TFA teachers/alumni can appear at times to have a "better-than-thou" outlook. In by no way am I judging people who aren't doing TFA and work 9-5 jobs. Obviously, I've been working a 9-5 job for the last year. And I applaud teachers that are not teaching in an inner city, poverty stricken school. There are certainly abundant challenges in middle-class schools, and if every motivated, knowledgeable citizen taught in a struggling school district, who would teach kids that were just like me? It's not the answer to completely forget the "haves" while we focus on improving the education of the "have-nots."

This is what I know: in all my life, I have never felt more sure about doing anything. I first heard of Teach for America in middle school, and learned more in college from recruiters. It was something I immensely respected but never personally considered. In June 2008, Patrick Connor, an Aggie who is in his second year of TFA in the D.C. area, told me stories from his classroom. It was the night before the last day of the school year, so he certainly was focusing on funny, positive stories due to his excitement at the thought of summer, but I was beyond inspired. I thought, oh my gosh, this is something I have to look into. This is something I could (maybe) handle. Later that night I told my mom about the program and some of Patrick's stories. Over the summer, I read every inch of the Teach for America website and anxiously waited for the application to come available online in August. I know it will be hard; I will be frustrated, disenchanted, disappointed at the end of a lot of days.

But I also know that I have never felt more at peace about making a decision like this. Not the White House internship and coming to D.C. Not transferring from TCU to A&M. In life, God has made a lot of things pretty evident to me, and I have walked by faith. Teach for America, though, feels like something God has smacked me in the face with (in a loving way) and said: "Hello! I want you to do this!" It has been my prayer that if it was His will, I would somehow be accepted. I know I will need to rely fully on Him to get through the next two years, and I know the ride will be bumpy. But I am so excited, so thrilled, and so blessed beyond belief to be a part of this program. Friends, family, cyber world - thanks for your words of encouragement through this process. See you sooooon!

"For we walk by faith, and not by sight." 2 Corinthians 5:7

Thursday, November 20, 2008

there were ninjas on our beds, true story

We sat there, the oldest of friends, me on one side of the booth, them on the other, margaritas and salsa on the table between us. We talked about jobs, guys, roommates, and family. We talked about anything and everything, both meaningful and silly, as if it had only been a week since we'd seen each other.

In reality, we're not the oldest of friends. Stephanie and Renza had only met twice before, but with as much as I talk about the other, I feel as though they know each other very well. And they definitely act like it. Having friends from totally different parts of your life that get along so well is so fun.

Stephanie and I met in 7th grade German class, and we found out we both went to the same church and starting doing youth group stuff together occasionally. Eventually our friendship grew into the know-everything-about-the-other, loud-and-obnoxious, we-can-argue-and-still-spend-24-hours-a-day-together friendship that it is today. She's currently in Dallas and after I was in Oklahoma City for work,I spent two days/nights with her last weekend.

Renza and I became friends the summer before high school at Camp Longhorn Indian Springs. Two summers later we were practically inseperable, and we spent the five years after that at camp for five weeks at a time attempting to be counselors, but I think we had more fun than the campers. We've had some crrrazy adventures, both domestic and international. (Como se dice cebolla??) She lives in Oklahoma and came to Dallas just to see us! YEA!

Saturday night I was exhausted but trying not to act like it. My mom, punk that she is, insisted that we stay at Hotel ZaZa the night that all three of us were in town. I felt like a ridiculous over the top spoiled kid staying there, however. It was extremely fun and Renz & I reminisced about the time when we stayed there sophomore year of college with her mom and family friend. At 18, hanging out in a bar that has a translucent dancefloor on top of a pool was pretty cool. Okay, it was still cool at 22...

"There are some scary ass ninjas on our beds!!" -Stephanie
(Apparently there were ninjas in the fabric covering the headboards in our room, and Steph was majorly freaked out.)
After our mandatory appearance at the "Dragonfly" -bar mentioned above- and hanging out with fellow ag William, we jumped on the beds, sang songs, took silly pictures. S&R pretended they were going to watch a raunchy movie (i immediately thought of infamous KKG advisor Mrs. Hoyle) and we fell asleep still talking i think.

The next morning there was a) a bird in our room chirping on command or b) the smoke detector was trying to alert us to its low battery. Correct answer: B. Renz called the front desk, and after fifteen minutes of no one coming with a ladder to solve our problem, I decided to take matters into my own hands. Sometimes Renza is too sweet for her own good.

I called the front desk. They said someone was on their way and should be there immediately. "Okay, thank you!" I cheerfully said, forgetting to yell or be aggrivated.

From the other bed, sleepy Stephanie rolled over. "Oh, yea, way to be a hard ass Courtney!She imitated my voice: 'Oh, thank you so much. Have a blessed day!'"

So the laughing began at 7:24 a.m. We pretty much laughed all of Sunday. Had a wonderful brunch, got semi-lost on the way to Love Field (but I knew the correct way), gave Renza a quick tour of Highland/University Park, blasted great tunes with the windows down. The only thing that would have made the weekend better was if my great-grandparents hadn't been out of town. The one time I'm in Dallas we miss each other!

How blessed am I to have such funny friends. Seriously, if I wrote down half the stuff they said I could write a bestseller. And, they put up with me, which either means they are incredibly smart or incredibly dumb... :)

I'm glad to have friends that see each other so little that so naturally get along together. It would be great if we all lived in the same city for a month. Or forever, whatever. Regardless, I'm so glad to know them. Until next time...

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

great light of the world

so i have this thing about quotes. i have a whole journal that's dedicated to quotes only. (it desperately needs to be updated.) i don't know how to describe it, but there's something about when someone goes before you and says what you're feeling, or says something inspiring, or meaningful, or funny. even if they're not famous. even if they're "unknown."

sometimes, a few words thrown together in the right order can mean so much. i'll share a quote i found today:

"People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within."
Elizabeth Kubler-Ross (1926-2004, doctor, counselor, educator)

"This is the message we have heard from him [Jesus] and declare to you:

God is light.
In Him there is no darkness at all."

John 1:5-6

my prayer for you today is that you see the light that's all around you. happy day!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

falling into winter

I'm from Houston, where most people say there are two seasons: summer, and a mild winter. But I like to disagree- we have a brief spring, a few cooler days with falling leaves, sometimes snow, and certainly - summer.
Washington certainly has four distinct seasons, and fall is all around us. Every time the seasons have changed while I've been living here, I've thought - "Oh, this is my favorite season!" The wonderful flowers and sunshine that came when spring rolled in. The longer days and warm tempatures to bake outside in. But the leaves changing color, the extended weeks of brisk nights and warmer days... fall in D.C. is like nothing i've ever experienced before. Its wonderful.
'Member that girl that i talk about alot, Caitlin? Well she and me and bonnie, our wonderful fun friend from georgia, roadtripped out to shenadoah nat'l park this weekend. I've been reading about this park literally since last November when I found out I was moving to D.C. and began researching cool things to do.
I could ramble on and on about our adventures - Bonnie (wonderful driver, really) making multiple wrong turns. Caitlin scolding me for wearing a scarf. Me trying to throw myself out of the car to feel the wind in my hair. Our hike to...nowhere. Our picnic with Middle Easterners. I could describe the colors of the leaves to you- but I'll just show you.
They say that fall is a reminder of the cleansing we need in life - trees shed their leaves each year to make room for new growth. Its a metaphor for our lives - to cleanse the stress from the last year, the hardships, the pain - to recognize the trials for what they are and prepare for: christmas!! the birth of a savior, time with family, and then to start it all over again - new growth in the spring.