Monthly Archives: September 2012

Working Class Hero

Lots going on. Just haven’t had time to post about it.

Big news is I’m a teacher. It’s weird to say. It’s like getting married and changing my last name. There’s all these new certificates to apply for, and being called “Mrs. Walker.” And thinking of myself as a middle school teacher. It’s just… weird.

Neat, too. Surreal. I’ve worked primarily with youth the past six years, so it’s not like some culture shock for me. Still, working day-in and day-out with kids IS new for me – adult interaction is rare these days. If I make a fart joke you’ll know why.

So I’m the Native American Connections teacher at two middle schools. I split the day – morning at one school, afternoon at the other. My first day on the job (as in signing HR papers) was the first day of school, so I’ve been learning on the go. And learning names, and policies, and hallways of two schools is waaaay harder than it looks. So is teaching. MAD props to the teachers I’m meeting who’ve been at it for 5, 15, or 20-some years. I’ve been at it for five weeks and I can see why summers off are a good thing.

Native American Connections is pretty fantastic. The whole concept is to create these cohorts of Native students who get plugged into school early on through their culture (like, “Oh, wow, school DOES relate to me!”). It’s like social studies, and language, and art, and history all rolled into one. It’s definitely a work-in-progress, with ‘progress’ being the key word. We’re seeing steady numbers indicating high school graduation rates are holding firm among Native Americans. We want those rates to increase, of course.

That’s just ONE of my jobs…

I’m also freelancing for some local news publications

And volunteering for the Sioux Falls Diversity Conference (mark your calendars!)…

And I also continue to work part-time (18+ hours weekly) for the JDAI programs of Volunteers of America-Dakotas. I LOVE working with these kids. It’s such a positive program and I’m so jazzed to see these at-risk kids smiling and working hard and having fun, even though they’re supposed to be these hard-core teen thugs. You know you’re making a difference when a 16-year-old gang member asks if he can return to the program after he’s off home detention.  It’s magic, and I enjoy being able to see their ‘kid’ sides come out at least a few times each week. Sadly, word gets around about how great the program is and I have random kiddos calling to ask, “If I get in trouble, do I get to spend time with you?” Seriously. It’s flattering, but a super-sad reminder regarding the lack of free, quality programming for at-risk teens in Sioux Falls.

I find it somewhat ironic that less than 8 months ago I was suffering from lack of employment. I’m a bit over-employed now. That’s not complaining. I really enjoy my jobs. I just need, like, 8 more hours in the day to spend time with my family. That’s it. More on that later.

Let’s not leave out the fact that I’m still working on my master’s degree in public administration. Six credits (two classes) this fall. That’s been really stressful. I’d go down to one class, if not for the fact I get tuition assistance for going to school half-time. If I dropped a class, I’d be responsible for the super-expensive credits :\ I also have 12 credits to complete to keep my ‘alternative’ teaching certificate. My plan is to wrap those into my current studies to see if I can still get the public administration degree, but an emphasis in education.

Wifedom and Mommyhood are suffering. Don’t even talk to me about extended family. Friends? What friends? I close my eyes at night and I think, “How many minutes did I see Mimi today?” And then I have to stop or I’ll begin to sob about how terrible of a mother I am that I can only mark my time with my daughter in minutes. If it weren’t for dropping her off at school, I’d see the kid on Mondays, Wednesdays, and some weekends. I am SO blessed to have Dalton. He is a true partner. There is no judgment. I’m sure there’s lots of unvoiced frustration, but I wouldn’t be able to keep up this circus performance if it weren’t for him.

My goal in doing all this isn’t to go crazy, or to win some kind of marathon. My hope is that the future of Sioux Falls – these kids that I work with every day – become pillars of our community. Maybe the hours upon hours I spend working with them will someday translate into a safer and more prosperous town for my daughter to raise her family in. That our culture will thrive and progress into something… more. Something better. I have to believe that or ALL the work I’m doing is meaningless.

So here’s to 80-hour work weeks, long homework nights and planning sessions, working through illness (my lungs were about to explode last week), made and missed deadlines, microwave dinners, and sleepy toddler and hubby kisses to remind me I’m doing everything I possibly can to ensure a bright future for the wakanyeja.

Mitakuye Oyasin.