Thursday, November 5, 2009

My First Day of Service: Michelle W.

What I took away from my first day of service was to always expect the unexpected. My teaching partner and I started off that Monday completely prepared and super excited. We had met over the weekend to review the curriculum one last time, used wmata to find the metro and bus route to our first school and loaded ourselves down with poster boards and M&Ms. Ultimately, nothing ended up going as planned that day. The wmata directions steered us very wrong, and we spent the extra hour we had allotted ourselves plus another hour and a half jumping bus to bus in a desperate attempt to find our school.

By the time we finally made it, we had walked up a hill, missed our first class and Darrell had lost his wallet. The class we did make wasn’t what we expected either. Our seventh graders were all over the place, shouting and swearing and hitting each other, barely even paying attention when we yelled out that we would be talking about sex. Getting the necessary paperwork done was a nightmare and we barely made it through half of the first module. We stayed peppy for the hour or so we were teaching, but no joke, the moment the last student left, we both just stood there, mouths open, staring at each other shell shocked. Two weeks of training didn’t prepare us for that first morning.

We came to the very sudden realization that our job is much more complicated than we once pictured it to be. We’re there to teach about HIV, but there’s not enough time or enough of the two of us to address all the other challenges facing our youth, and I don’t know how long it will take me to learn to accept the fact that we alone can’t fix everything.

What I have learned so far, however, is to expect that paperwork is harder when much of a class reads below grade level. To expect that not every teacher will care what their kids do. To expect that just because a school has the physical resources – a nice building, fancy computers – does not mean the administration is utilizing those resources. To expect, as we learned a week later when our class followed shootings of several young people the night before, for there to be other issues these young people are dealing with besides whether or not to engage in sex or safer sex. To expect, ultimately, what we knew we were supposed to expect. But to expect that the reality that hits is much harder than the one envisioned, and in that sense, is unexpected.

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