TFA Memphis Guest Blog - Meesha Munnings
When I tell anyone I encounter that I am from Florida but am a teacher in Memphis I am met with instant confusion.
February 8, 2022
In May of 2016, I packed up all of my belonging and drove 891 miles from Lake Placid, Florida to Memphis, Tennessee to become a teacher. When I tell anyone I encounter that I am from Florida but am a teacher in Memphis I am met with instant confusion.
When I initially went to college teaching was not on my mind, I wanted to be a physician assistant. However, one semester volunteering at an alternative school completely changed the trajectory of my life. Little did I know that volunteering at a school for one hour a week and teaching students for eight hours a day are two things that are not even on the same playing field and yet in my mind it made sense. I know this is a cliche statement but teaching hands down is one of the hardest things I have ever done.
In 2016, I was teaching 8th grade science and it was the very first year this charter had taken over the school, so everyone was new. I did not want to be the person in the meeting who asked all the questions, so instead I asked nothing and tried to figure out everything on my own. There were people in my building who were willing to help me and yet I made the unconscious decision to drown.
Please don’t be like me.
While I was drowning, my principal suggested I be a part of the Safe and Civil Leadership Team. This team deals with safety and school culture. This is where my leadership journey at my charter began. Eventually, I found my footing in the classroom, but this wasn’t without questioning if this was the role for me. The scores from my first year was a level one! I was never told my individual scores. I did not find out until the third year when I was looking for the scores for year two.
The following year, I transitioned from Safe and Civil Leadership team to the Advisory Leadership team. This team was over the creation of how home room would function by creating systems and structure. This was also my first-year teaching 7th grade. I was upset that I had to move at first but the curriculum for 7th grade science was my absolute favorite. The second year I finally found my stride. Teaching was still difficult, but I was no longer drowning. I buckled down and improved my teaching practice as well as my leadership capabilities. In my second year, my scores were a level 4. Improving three levels in one year while I created my own curriculum must be one of my greatest accomplishments in the teaching game.
During my third year, I enrolled into an educational leadership master’s program at Arkansas State University. Not sure why I thought teaching and being a graduate student at the same time was a wise idea, but there I was. From grading papers, lesson plans, IEP, 504s, student behavior, advisory leadership team, and being an assistant basketball coach on top of graduate level quizzes, papers, and assignments, I was in deep. This pushed me to be resourceful! I was even more intentional with the systems in my classroom. My students were able to facilitate majority parts of the class and became were good at working on their partners/groups before coming to me.
These systems only improved as I walked into my fourth year of teaching. I was in my final semester of my graduate program and invited to a part of the Instructional Leadership Team. While we should not have favorites those two groups of students helped me perfect my teaching craft.
The end of the year is when I plan all of my favorite labs so that I won’t have to hear, “when we are going to make ice cream again”, but that was cut short due to COVID-19. The group of kids I had during my 5th year of teaching did not receive the full experience of 7th Grade Science and while I did enjoy working from home I did not like that I could not fully sense everyone’s personality or depth of understanding through a computer screen. It was during that year when I decided to shoot my shot and apply for the Assistant Principal position at my school.
When I first applied, I didn’t get pass the third round. I was hurt but I also understood. I have only been teaching for five years so maybe I did need more experience. However, my principal was really adamant about hiring the talent that existed within our building. So, she created a leadership prep group (basically a 3-month long interview) where the people in the group were assigned projects, sat in on interviews, and learned how to think like an administrator. After the 3-month long interview we were all invited to an interview with the executive director, director of academic, director of HR, and the principal. I was extremely nervous for the interview, but I made sure I thoroughly prepared for the interview.
Coming into this role amid a pandemic when students haven’t been in school for 13 months has its own set of challenges. However, I do not have anything else to compare what being an administrator is supposed to be like so I am learning to roll with the punches!