I am indeed a Christian. I believe in a very real God and that He loved me so much that He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die for me in spite of my own selfish pursuits. While I may interweave faith into my blog, I can assure you that my experiences are not unlike anyone else in TFA. I always love to hear from others and I hope that I would gain an ear from you, the reader =). No matter how much effort I spend in staying afloat during institute, please stop me in the hallway if you’re in the Delta!
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16 ESV)
Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. (2 Corinthians 5:20 ESV)
We have just finished the first two weeks of institute here in Cleveland. Even though it’s been a rough week quite honestly, I can say that it’s starting to feel like home here. Yes, I do have some culture shock at times but I’m learning! “Y’all” has penetrated my vocabulary. The Order of Operations is no longer “Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally” but “Please Excuse My Dope Awesome Swag.” Finally, I’m trying my hardest to say “sir” and “ma’am” when talking to those who live here.
I bring up the verses from the Bible for a reason. I understood what the passages meant but it never became real to me until now. I’ll share with you what I mean.
On Sunday, I was excited at the opportunity to go to the United Baptist Church right by my high school this summer. CM was gracious enough to tell me about what church is like in the South. Where I am from, the church is relatively removed from the community. In the Delta, the community seemingly IS the church. I wasn’t use to hearing news about how various teens were doing in school and what local events were going on. In a way, I kind of wished that it would be like that up North too. Walking in through the doors, I was faced with a stunning realization – I am of Asian descent (I know, it was quite shocking to me too =). You see what I realized is that I use to grow up downplaying that characteristic about me in an effort to befriend those around me. In the Delta, it’s unavoidable. No one did anything wrong and I don’t see it as a flaw. In fact, I love being Asian! Being in a predominantly African-American church made me realize that I need to embrace it by being able to step out of my own comfort zone to learn.
During the week, I have been assigned to teach at a local high school in Cleveland. I have a collaborative group, dubbed “collab”, of four other math teachers and we are teaching Algebra I. I have a great group and I’m getting use to being called “Mr. L.” However, we quickly realized that not only do we have to get use to using our teacher names we have to start referring to everyone else by their teacher names too. It was made apparent when Miss N in our group referred to Mr. J by his first name, W. The students were dumbfounded; they had no idea who W is since they only know him as “Mr. J.” I found this quite symbolic. Within TFA, everyone knows us through our normal, everyday selves. To the students and, as a result, the parents, we are identified as teachers. It’s empowering and somewhat frightening to now feel like I am a representative of not just an organization but also a profession.
Ambassadors, as referred in 2 Corinthians, have the authority to represent a nation to another group. They aren’t assigned to this position in order to seclude themselves but to generate a positive result for their home. I am an Asian-American math teacher a part of TFA. I try to downplay my identity from time-to-time and I’d like to believe that I could shed the name “Mr. L” outside the hours of 7 – 4:30 when I’m not in school. However, even though it’s only been one full week of teaching, I can already see that I’ll be Mr. L for the remainder of the summer and ignoring that fact will not be helpful for my class in such a short time period.
I do miss home. Seeing various Facebook updates from the Midwest gives me a nice, warm feeling. However, I am learning that the “achievement gap” isn’t just some piece of educational jargon unworthy of our attention … it’s real and it sucks. I want to be here to serve and it’s an absolute pleasure to be among such inspiring, driven, and loving people in the MS Delta.