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And just like that, it’s all over and I’m sitting at the airport in Texas waiting for my long-awaited flight back to Chicago. But it’s really not that simple. This summer at Institute was tough. If I really think about it, I can remember how awful I felt the first couple weeks.

I can remember how homesick I felt as soon as the sun set, and I remember wondering what the heck I was doing with my life. Was TFA really just another 2 years of putting off the rest of my unclear future? How did I even get in to TFA? Why? What? How? Why? What? How? Over and over. I felt lost and confused and a quite out of place.

I can remember my fear and anxiety over my ankle swelling up after a bug bite, forcing me to go to the emergency care center at midnight on one my first school nights, causing me to limp around like a fool for the first several weeks.

I remember the stress, and the weariness is still with me, but things are just so different from this end. And I realize that Institute really wasn’t as bad as I had heard. True I didn’t get a lot of sleep, gained weight from the cafeteria food, tried hard to keep up with the steep learning curve but you know what? At some point in my life I had dealt, to some extent, with all of these factors already. And even though Institute was hard, it was not impossible.

I got to work with an amazing group of students and get my first taste of what teaching is really like. I was surrounded by amazing people every single day! And I have more pride for the school I worked at this summer than any other school I myself have attended up until now. (McReynolds…McAwesome!!). And you know what? It turns out I absolutely do belong in TFA, in the classroom. And it turns out that I actually did much better this summer than I could have imagined possible.

Although it is not as easy to focus on my strengths as it is my weaknesses, the faith my CMA (corps member advisor), other school staff and peers showed in me this summer had to have stemmed from somewhere. In the months (yes, months) before arriving in Texas for training I had already begun praying for success at Institute. And based on several factors I feel those were answered.

For one, I was able to effectively manage my students’ behavior and invest them in their education. This allowed me the opportunity to help peers who were struggling in these areas, sometimes with my same students. This either took the form of them observing me teach, or general discussion.

By the end of Institute, I was one of two CMs selected to speak about our experiences at the Houston Regional Meeting – an audience of about 220 people. For all the crazy irrational fears I have, I do not belong to the majority of the population that fears public speaking like crazy. In fact, I LOVE public speaking. I love interacting with people and being able to connect with and talk to large groups of people. Whatever I do with my life, I hope it will involve plenty of public speaking.

Anyway, the opportunity to speak to my peers at large was truly rewarding and enjoyable. But more than that, the fact that I was nominated (by my school) and chosen to do so inspired within me a sense of confidence about the work I am about to do. After being so lost, so confused about what to do with my life and moving to Texas for 2 years to figure it out while teaching – it’s just great to know that I am finally on the right track. This just…fits. Of course we will just have to see how these posts look once I actually start teaching full-time!

For now, I am happy to have had a (eventually) good experience at Institute. I am actually sad that it is already over. I will miss many people, I will miss the environment. Honestly it kind of scares me that it was another chapter of my life that has now closed. Well, maybe it was more of a prologue but still. For now, I am happy to have met the students, leaders and peers I did this summer. I am happy (BEYOND HAPPY) to be flying back into Chicago in a couple hours if only for a week. Being in Houston has given me a brand new appreciation for Chicago and I have to say so far Houston does not come close. We’ll see how I feel come winter months.

McAwesome.

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