Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Ensley's (Next) Excellent Adventure

When I started this blog in the beginning of 2009, it was to find humor in my absurdly sucky life in Manhattan. (Jobs in the service industry? Not for me.) I moved on to Charlotte, where rent was cheaper (pool view!), the grass was greener,  and my state of mind improved dramatically.

As of today, I'm officially a Teach for America 2011 Corps Member assigned to teach Special Ed in Eastern North Carolina (see: the sticks). I'm leaving behind a good job, a great roommate, and amazing friends. I haven't made a change this big in a long, long time.

Today was my last day as a teaching assistant, and my hardest goodbye was with my 5 year old friend J. J comes from a high-poverty, single parent home. He came into my class last year not knowing a single letter of the alphabet or how to count from 1 to 10.

He read me a book today.

As he pressed his chipmunk cheek onto my shoulder and gave me a goodbye bear hug, it occurred to me that he probably won't remember me. If he does, I hope he'll remember the times I wiped off boo-boos and handed out hugs, not the times I lost my patience. When his kindergarten self turns into a 6'4 high school valedictorian/quarterback/president of the Student Council, I hope that something Miss Ensley did had an positive effect, even if it was just sneaking him extra snack on the mornings I knew he didn't eat breakfast.

There have been many times when I wondered if I was crazy to walk away from the life I've built here in Charlotte. What if I don't make new friends? What if my new apartment has a strange odor? (I mean, that would really get to you after awhile.) What if I don't do a good job? But some things are more important than creature comforts and accolades. As a black male in North Carolina, J has something like a 40% chance of graduating from high school. The thought of this sweet little guy falling into a trap of low expectations and negative stereotypes is unacceptable. Instead of bemoaning the powers that be, I'm going to do something about it. 

I have a long seven weeks of training ahead of me, starting today. I'll be back in Charlotte at the end of July to pack my things and move wherever it is that I'm going. Blogging may slow down a bit, but rest assured it will be quality vs. quantity as I spend 5 weeks in Cleveland, Mississippi for the bulk of my training. (Never heard of it? Neither has...anyone.)

I guess sometimes it takes only the tiniest of people to inspire us to great things. So J? This one's for you. 


Emily White said...

Ah! My friend Danielle just moved to Charlotte cause that's where she'll be doing TFA and I was just talking to her about going to MS for training! You have to find her, she's so great and y'all would get along really well!

Adrienne said...

I wish you all the best in this new endeavor and admire your kind heart and your compassion for children.

Sarah Beth - Dixie Gator Gal said...

My daddy actually grew up in the Delta and we have a lot of family in Cleveland. So yes, I've heard of it and been there. I've had a lot of friends who have done Teach for America and it has changed their lives. One of my pledge sisters is a Managing Director at the Headquarters in NY, too! Wishing you all the very best on this new chapter in your life!

Hines-Sight said...

Oh Ensley, this made me cry. So wonderful.

E-mail me in Eastern, NC and tell me where when you know. You will be a blessing to those students.

I've lived in southeastern, NC. Great part of my life, but I did have to move to a city to meet Will.

shae majors said...

Miss Ensley!!!!! I'm sooooo excited for you and so jealous at the same time!

....seriously, I lay in my bed at night daydreaming of where I want to go and what I want to do with my life........and look at YOU! You're doing it!!! I'm so proud!!!!! (And so very, very sad at the same time.)

Thank you for being such a wonderful inspiration and the cause of so many good laughs!

I cannot WAIT to read about what you've been doing! Remember if you're ever feeling lonely or far away from home....I'll be stalking you on your blog (or just a phone call away)!!!

STYLE'N said...

A BIG congrats to you. I know this will be a great move for you! What an great story about this 5 year old. It's amazing how much teachers can really influence and help kids.
Also, I have moved in cae you want to update your Google reader etc...

One who secretly reads every HBN post said...

Cleveland, MS? I spent a month there one night.

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