A Formidable Combination

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Jun 19 2011

The Mighty Mississippi

Well, clearly I haven’t been doing a good job of keeping up with this whole blog thing. It’s amazing how busy Induction week and the first week of Institute have been. The short recap of induction involves a flat tire in Louisville, arriving late in Charlotte, attending intense and emotional sessions that only drove my passion for this work, going out with 2010′s and picking their brains for advice, saying goodbye to my boyfriend, apartment hunting (successful – cannot wait!), and most importantly – beginning to build some strong friendships.

And now – Institute. How to begin. Well, first, you should know that I was dreading the Mississippi Delta and having to stay here for 5 weeks. But surely enough, as we were driving through the flat but beautiful Delta – I fell in love. I am shocked at how much I love this place, the people, the culture, everything (including, occasionally, the hot hot Mississippi weather).

Institute has been pretty intense so far though – I wake up at 4:45 every morning to ride a warm bus to my school placement that is almost an hour away, then attend session after session with little breaks until 4:30pm when we load that bus (which is now HOT instead of warm) back to DSU’s campus to arrive in time for the sweaty shoving and pushing that occurs in the dining hall around dinner. Then it’s off to lesson plan or do “homework” for 3-4 hours (maybe more) and hopefully hop into bed by midnight in attempts of getting at least 4.5hrs of sleep before doing it all over again. So, with that said, if I haven’t been calling you or keeping up with friendships enough – I apologize. I would use my hour bus ride as chat time, if only I had steady service while driving through the vast rural farming land…

After a week of preparation (2 including Induction), tomorrow is my first day of teaching. I am placed to teach entering 8th grade English Language Arts (ELA) at Greenville-Weston High School for the next 4 weeks of summer school. I cannot wait to meet my kids tomorrow morning. We have been making plans for them and talking about them hypothetically for a while now and it will be so amazing to finally meet them and see how they really are.

- – Alright, now let’s transition into story time.

Last night was probably one of the best nights of my life – and DEFINITELY the best night of the summer. It started with 35 of us Charlotte Corps Members going out to dinner at a local Mexican restaurant. After a few margaritas and some great conversation, 9 of us decided to go on a journey to find the Mississippi river. We drove down a long flat rode with the windows down, blasting music, as the sun set and the warm Mississippi air poured into the car that I was riding in. Then we came to the park we had heard would lead to the river – but of course, the park was gated closed (which we assumed was due to it being pretty late, but then later found out it was most likely due to flooding damage and fallen trees – It definitely hadn’t been open in quite a while). So of course we parked the cars in front of the gate, and climbed around it. Walking in the darkness we reached a beautiful lake, cracked open some beers, and continued our journey. After a long, long stretch of dark woods, we had almost given up. At this point, many of the girls were getting scared and there was an eery feeling that was sort of looming over us – after all, we were alone, no one knew where we were, we were clearly trespassing deep into these woods, and had no cellphone service. One of the guys decided he would run ahead and find the river, then run back and lead us to it – determination. We protested, saying it wasn’t safe to split up, but off he ran until we couldn’t see him anymore. The rest of us kept walking, hoping he would come running back shortly. But, as we kept walking, and walking, he never appeared. We reached a giant tree that had fallen across the path – seemingly with no way around or over it, and we panicked. We yelled and yelled his name, then finally found a way around the tree and realized he must have kept going. Then in the distance, we heard him coming – panting and sweating, “Guys! I found it! It’s just up here!”

And we trekked on. The woods opened up to this beautiful clearing with pools of water around us. The ground crunched beneath our feet – since this area had flooded and then dried, the ground was so dry it sounded like popping bubble wrap as we walked. Our friend had found an observation tower which had a sign that said “Closed For Winter” on it (obviously hasn’t been used in a while), and we began to climb the 8 stories to the top. Was it a smart idea to put 9 people on a janky wooden 8-story tower that creeked and swayed as we went higher? Probably not.

When we got to the top we were overlooking the mighty Mississippi River. The stars we brilliant and the hot breeze was blowing through our hair as we stood in silence. We began laughing and complaining of the heat, but every couple minutes we would all just stop and take it in. Then one guy, who tends to be the motivational speaker of the group, pulled us in for a huddle. We stood in a circle with our sweaty arms around each other and vowed to never forget this moment – obviously this was all done as a huge joke as he carried on about how our journey to the river is like the ones we’ll have with the kids we teach – full of obstacles but if we don’t give up, we’ll make it to the beautiful ending (something like that). We all laughed and joked, then threw our hands into the middle of the circle and yelled “Charlotte!” on the count of three – but in a sense, we all knew it was real. We had shared something together this night – and we will never forget it.

All that said – I absolutely LOVE this place. And I love these people.

- Kris.

3 Responses

  1. ashley b.

    I love it!!! I am so glad you are having a great time, Kris! You will be a great teacher! I know it :) MISS YOU!

  2. Dan

    Hey, nice post. Where’s the picts??? Thought you might say something about Tuscaloosa as well. Hope this week with the kids is going well. Love you! Dad

  3. Megan

    Sounds like you’re having a blast Ms. Hendon!! :-) You’re going to be such a blessing and an inspiration on those kids lives! I look forward to your next blog.

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"A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination. But when you add to that a literate tongue or pen, then you have something very special." – Nelson Mandela


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