I’ve completed the first three parts of the pre-institute reading. Personally, it was not super helpful.
I think it will be super helpful to those who have never been exposed to any women studies ideas and find that facts are the best argument and motivator to change. Or those who have role models.
I’ve never had a role model. No seriously. I never looked up to anyone when I was young and wanted to be like them. Thinking about this the past few days made me wonder why. I never admired anyone the way people talk about the role models they had. I had examples of strong young adults: Boxcar Children, Nancy Drew, The Hardy Boys, Babysitter Club, and The American Girl Doll’s Books. And I think that made me believe in myself and hold myself to an unrealistic high standard. I never judged myself against others really.
This I think is part of my problem when I’m reading this pre work so far. The direct instructions are “read and be inspired.” But since I often hold high expectations, the fact that these examples are meeting those expectations, makes me want TFA to answer the “so what?” question of research. So what that this guy radically redid education in Harlem? What does that teach me? That with the right location, and the right financial backing I too can make a change? I already knew that, that’s why I joined TFA. So what that this lady helped to add design to a school system in rural North Carolina? She had her own company that allowed her to have the financial backing to do that and the time.
I guess that’s one of my problems with this stories: none of them are teachers doing something in the classroom with what they have. (Kopp’s book did have a few examples, but that’s all there were antidotal stories of a few people’s success). All of the examples showed people with financial resources making a difference. How is this supposed to inspire me? I won’t have that backing or ability? What am I supposed to do?
The facts are what got me into TFA. Did you know in an urban society, kids are 2/3 more like than solider returning from Iraq to have PTSD? That there is a huge gap between test scores based on socio-economic factors? That not every kid has the opportunity for an excellent opportunity? (That is seriously shameful in the USA!)
But of all the questions and all of the readings, it was a conversation with my roommate when I was expressing my sadness of the quality of instruction in this pre-work she asked me a question that was more helpful than anything TFA had asked so far:
What is your purpose as a teacher in TFA?
Now, to be honest, with full disclosure: I had wanted to be a teacher when I was little (they say those dreams are the most important), but I was drawn to the State Department from 9th grade and it was a stronger draw. Then I heard about TFA and the ability to “try” teaching. I knew I needed a break from school and if I went on to a MA degree I wouldn’t make it. And I liked the mission of TFA. I believe in equality and that a person’s skin color or zip code should determine the rest of their life. While life isn’t fair, I believe in giving everyone an equal opportunity to succeed. And our education system is not doing that. It hasn’t for a long time. The fact that I never noticed that I never really learned about black American history before college, or the strong black role models (or Asian or Hispanic, etc.) before college, that I never had heard of why people would hate America before college, showed me the failings of our school system. And I came from your average middle class white single parent home. If I was missing that, what were those kids missing.
I want to give these kids a chance to change their future. I want to show them what I fell in love with. I want them to know that someone cares for them. I want them to feel safe in my classroom. I want them to learn that they are not alone, that the world needs them.
Yes, I want to change the world. But I have to accept that I won’t be doing that alone. That I can’t do that alone. I’m realistic in my expectations of myself and my first year of teaching. I don’t expect to move a mountain, but if I can show just one child that it is possible- then I have accomplished my job as a teacher.
But how does that desire to change the world fit into TFA?
Sure our mission statements are similar, and even the same outlook. But couldn’t I have just joined a alternative certification program? Why do this with TFA?
Because movements have power, and large groups of people working together can change the world. I might not be able to lift a car. But with the right leverage and number of people- I can lift a car.
I think the next section will be more about actual teaching strategies. We also have a call this week about the reading that we have done so far. Maybe that reading will really open up this work for me and explain why they are actually using it.
*Note: I am sure it is helpful to someone somewhere. But it has not been for me. That’s all I’m saying.