Making the Desert Bloom

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Jun 05 2012

Blazing a New Path

Whenever I tell most people that I am moving to Las Vegas after graduation, they laugh. After growing up in the Midwest and going to school on the East Coast, the common conception is that Las Vegas is just a desert oasis that’s little more than the Strip. A few more slightly more informed people know about the real estate bubble there, but few seem to be able to comprehend that Las Vegas is a legitimate metropolis with nearly two million inhabitants. It’s a real city with real problems that are not just caused by drunk tourists.

Unlike many of my fellow Las Vegas CMs, I already know my placement for next year. I am stoked to be a 5th Grade teacher at the 100 Academy of Excellence in North Las Vegas. When I was accepted to join the corps in Las Vegas, I presumed that I would be teaching in a majority Latino neighborhood since I speak Spanish and this population is the majority in most Title 1 schools in the Las Vegas Valley. However, I am going to be teaching in a majority black school in North Las Vegas that is rather unique among schools in this part of the country. Since it’s an open-enrollment charter school rather than a district, neighborhood school, my students will likely come from over the valley. While I will still be incredibly involved in the school community, these geographic barriers will make community involvement a bit more difficult on one hand. On the other hand, a school like this one requires far more parental involvement than most district schools. First, parents have to actively enroll their children in the school. Then, they have commit to volunteering 20 hours per year at the school. There are indeed many ways to fulfill this requirement, but all of them show an investment in their child’s education. This experience is going to be far different from my initial expectations, but I know that it will be a rewarding one.

Overall, I am excited and slightly nervous to be on my current path. I am covering new ground here, but that’s nothing new for me. From my time abroad in Argentina and Germany, I am used to being in unfamiliar settings without a support network. However, the big difference here is that I am not just stepping out of my comfort zone, but I am also going to lead teach an effective classroom right off the bat. It’s going to require a lot of detailed planning and executing. My biggest problem in this regard is that I love planning for the big goal. But, I often get lazy when filling in the details. That’s going to come back to haunt me as a teacher. Therefore, I am hoping that Institute really forces me to plan everything down to the last detail unlike my normal planning habits. These skills will be useful for me in any career path moving forward.

In the meanwhile, I am enjoying my last few days before induction. In terms of blazing a new path, I am finally taking a road trip cross-country as part of my move from Ohio to Vegas. I have talked about road tripping for a long time, so the reality isn’t going to quite live up to my lofty expectations. However, I am looking forward to going to 9 states over the next week and a half. It should be a blast! I decided to spend next weekend in Chicago before heading out west with stops in Lincoln, Denver, and Salt Lake City. I would have liked to have gone to a few more baseball games and national parks, but I am going to catch games at US Cellular Field and Coors Field. On the national parks front, I will just have to visit a bunch on long weekends from Vegas. I am glad that I am already creating a Vegas bucket list of fascinating places to grade papers. Overall, I am getting excited for the weeks ahead, and conserving energy that I will need for this new path ahead.

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