Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Jan 22 2010

Running in a Dark Room

Starting this blog is both exciting and nerve racking. The future is within reach. I feel like I have spent a lot of my life wanting to be in a different stage of life. Graduating college and becoming an “adult” has been something that I’ve wanted to be here for the past four years and now it is so close I can almost touch it. In 12 weeks I will be walking across the stage at the UIC Pavilion graduating with my bachelors in finance. It’s kind of hard to believe in just a few months I’m going to make a transition from college student to middle school (here’s to hoping I am placed in a middle school and not a high school) teacher and Chicagoan to a Hoosier. I’ll admit that I was disappointed at first that I was not placed in Nashville, which was my number 1 choice, that quickly dissolved as I learned more about Indianapolis. I think it is going to be a perfect fit for me. I am ready for a smaller city, bye bye Chicago! and your awful traffic and parking.

I think what I did not realize was the severity of the Indianapolis Public School system’s current state. I think often times when we think about failing school systems we think Chicago, New York and LA. I think many people are shocked to find out Indianapolis Public Schools has the lowest graduation rate among our nation’s 50 largest cities’ school districts (teachforamerica.org). A study done in 2005 showed only 30 percent of students in IPS schools graduate. This is incredibly low. On average 53% of students in city schools graduate and 71 percent in suburban schools graduate. (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/22/education/22dropout.html) This is scary, overwhelming and motivating. I am so glad that I was placed in Indianapolis. I have an opportunity to help work toward improving this alarming statistic. At the same time, what the hell do I know about being a teacher? Hopefully my eagerness and optimistism will make up for my lack of experience. Previous corps members have told me institute is thorough and TFA has the training down to a science. I hope they’re right.

My senior English teacher told our class that his first year of teaching was like running in a dark room. Fast forward 4 years later, I e-mailed him for advice when I was applying to Teach For America. His response, “Four years into this field, and I’m still running in the same darkened room that I was when I taught your class. Granted, I’m running a bit faster, and I know where a few of the trip hazards are, and somebody has opened the blinds slightly.” I’m ready to start running in a dark room. I would guess that I am only 50% aware of what I am getting myself into, but that is really freaking exciting. For the first time in my life, I am excited for the unknown. I am ready to work hard for something I believe in with my whole heart. I could have easily went on to law school like I planned or worked at an investment firm (and actually utilized my finance degree) but instead I am going to spend two years doing something I am passionate about. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” I hope that I can carry this quote with me so when I have a bad day and question what the hell I am doing, I can remember.

In other news…

• Countdown to the Praxis II Math Content Exam: 50 days! Wish me luck folks. Over the next few weeks, I’m going to be taking a trip down memory lane back to geometry, trig, calculus and everything else I thought I’d never use again and I’m sure I told my high school teachers I’d never use. (I had absolutely no filter on my mouth when I was in high school. Okay I still don’t.)

• I’m going to Indianapolis on the 30th and 31st this month. I’m excited to explore Indy a little more! I’ve been looking at the Indianapolis Art Center’s website and have decided I have to live close to it. There are so many classes offered that I want to take, but who am I kidding I probably won’t have time. I’m going to be looking at different housing options, mostly in the Broad Ripple area. So if any Indy corps members are looking for housing next year I am going to be looking for a roommate. I would love to live with another TFAer. I’m sure my current roommate would testify that I’m a pretty awesome roommate. Plus, I cook and bake all the time so you won’t go hungry. :)

9 Responses

  1. Mom

    Brennen, I love the analogy of Running in a Dark Room. After 32 years in education not sure if it’s any brighter but I do know there is not a more important or noble profession that leaving your mark on a future generation.

    I am so proud of you!

  2. Roxanne

    Congrats on your acceptance! I’m a 2010 CM also placed to teach secondary math, but in New Orleans. I took the praxis last month and I studied with the Research and Education Association test prep book. I hadn’t looked at a single math problem in four years and it was a pretty good refresher (I think, I haven’t gotten my test results yet!)

    Congrats again

  3. Mom

    Brennen, I have been thinking back to my first days of teaching. What a learning experience for a girl from Findlay! To think that 32 years later the people I taught with those first few years are my closest and dearest friends. We have seen each other through marriages, children, grandchildren, divorces, heartbreaks, deaths of our loved ones and shared great joy. I wish for you your very own DMS. There’s nothing better than friends who have walked along with you on your journey. And 32 years later we are still involved in education and it is so rewarding to have you and Seth continuing to want to make a difference in the life of children!

  4. Joy

    Brennen, How I so enjoyed reading Running in a Dark Room. It again reaffirmed for me what a bright, brave and caring young woman you are in so many ways. You will be sure to make a difference in the lives of many children and their families. Your excitement and passion for teaching reminds me of why I became an educator and how lucky I have been over the years to not only make an impact but to learn about life, about me and the things that truely matter. Being a teacher is much more than the curtains and the bulletin boards. It is about the tremendous responsibility and influence you will have over your students. Enjoy the experience and thanks for letting me be a part of it.

  5. Laura

    The blog is off to a great start and I love the catchy name that you came up with. You are already so wise beyond your years and will bring so much to the teaching profession. You can and will make an impact with the students – as they will on you as well. Great start to a great journey – glad I get to follow along :)!

  6. Mom

    Looking forward to exploring Indy and meeting some of your new TFA friends!

  7. Wow, Awesome post – I’m such a newbie when it comes to all this, Thanks for this!

  8. I don’t usually reply to posts but I will in this case. WoW :)

  9. Enjoyed the posts..

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A first year math teacher in Indianapolis

Middle School

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