My parents live about an hour and a half from where I go to school. I always felt like this was the perfect distance–far enough that I can maintain my independence, but close enough to have their help when I need it (I’ll admit–it’s quite often). I know how lucky I am to have parents that are never anything but 100% supportive, and help me in every way they can. So tonight they made the drive out to Fairfax and treated my boyfriend, my brother (who is a sophomore at my school) and I to dinner at our collective favorite restaurant, Todai (a top-notch sushi buffet). It was quite a treat–the kind that is usually reserved for occasions like birthdays. But this was a special occasion. It was my first time seeing my parents since my TFA acceptance, and we wanted to celebrate. Plus, my parents have had only a MILLION questions about what I’ll be doing with TFA.
First, it’s been really weird to comprehend that I’ll be moving so far away, and to Kansas City of all places. None of us have been there, and we’ve moved around the country but never to the midwest. The closest person I know is my high school best friend who’s at University of Nebraska in Lincoln…3 hours away. This whole “I’M MOVING!” thing was sprung on them pretty unexpectedly (we were really unsure of whether I’d get accepted, and I didn’t have any placement preferences, so it was all just a huge surprise) and I still don’t think the reality of it all has sunk in quite yet.
My family’s reactions–so far–have been somewhat mixed. My dad’s always had mixed feelings about me teaching grade school anyway (he wants me to be a professor). I think the fact that I’ll be teaching ESL makes him feel a little better, since he grew up in the Rio Grande Valley (which is another TFA region, but of course he was there long before that) and he understands the need for great ESL teachers all across the country. From a sociopolitical standpoint, he’s very concerned with the wellbeing and treatment of immigrants in our country–many of whom come to the States specifically for the benefit of our (presumably equal and fair) educational system. But also–and maybe more importantly–a lot of the benefits of TFA have been really appealing to my dad, as they would be to any parent. Loan deferrals, paid Master’s degree, and transitional funding? As a parent who’s been paying for my college tuition mostly out of pocket, how could he say no?
My mom’s super excited about the idea, but she’s wary about the process of me moving to Missouri, potentially alone. My mom works for the special ed program at my high school alma mater, and the first thing she did when she found out about my acceptance/placement was e-mail the entire staff (it’s a small school and they pretty much all know her and therefore know me) telling them the exciting news, and asking them for advice. “Do any of you have any familiarity of Kansas City, Missouri? If so, what is your impression of it as to what kind of place it is to be/live?” she asked. The responses were, of course, positive…with the exception of my high school theater teacher who commented on how darn cold the winters will be!
She’s already started trying to figure out the logistics of moving, and I’ll be honest, I’m thinking about it too. As I’ve said over and over again, my family has moved around quite a bit, including moving ourselves–my dad in the big trunk and my mom in a little U-haul, three kitties in toe–on a cross-country drive from Seattle to DC. The plain and simple truth is that moving is a pain in the arse, and it helps to be prepared. One of the first text messages I got when I told my mom about my acceptance was “Do they have an Ikea?” We figure that it just won’t be worth it to move all of my current furniture out of my apartment, truck it to KC, potentially put it in storage, and then potentially find that there’s not room for half of it in my apartment anyway.
There’s also a lot of uncertainty about the fact that I won’t have a classroom. I had always counted on having one, before I applied for TFA and was just planning on being a middle school English teacher. Teaching ESL is a different story–as a specialist, there’s a good chance that I’ll be team teaching or floating around the school working with students who are immersed in gen. ed. classes. My natural impulse, as a pre-service teacher, is to start preparing NOW, since you can never be too prepared. As a teacher herself, my mom is also sharing this impulse. But for now, the most we can do is speculate. Later this week I’m going to purchase a rolling backpack for my “teacher bag” (I need it for my student teaching next semester anyway) but I’m not sure what to start investing in besides that. My mom’s also going to lend me her laptop (she never uses it–her iPhone gets the job done) which has Rosetta Stone – Spanish installed, so I can brush up in the months leading up to my (potential) immersion in a classroom full of Spanish speakers. Better to be over-prepared than under! And in the very possible situation that many of my students come from families where neither parent is proficient enough in English to hold a conversation, it will be my obligation to speak with them in their native language. I understand that there are translators, but for the sake of a personal connection, I’d like to avoid it.
I mentioned both of my parents’ takes on my TFA acceptance thus far–both have been positive–but I have to go ahead and throw a couple of lines in about my boyfriend and my brother. Boyfriend has kept pretty quite about it–he’s supportive, definitely, but uncertain about what it all means for him. My brother is happy for me, but it’ll be weird living so far away from him. I don’t know if it’ll be as weird for him as it is for me. But I’ll miss him, more than I’ll miss anyone else, I can already tell. I’m going to make him help me with the moving process over the summer, and maybe he can spend a week with me sometime before school starts. Frankly, I’ve always been able to see him and hang out with him whenever I want to, so it’s going to be different having to connect with him exclusively through phone calls, facebook, texts, etc. But I guess this is all part of growing up!