Congratulations to the first batch of 2011 corps members! A year has passed since I logged on to find that I’d be joining Teach For America in Memphis. One co-op, one graduation, one institute, and three months of teaching later, here I am calling new accepts to welcome them to our corps. It’s like we’re no longer the freshmen in school, but I don’t feel qualified to be an upperclassman yet. I didn’t realize the baton would be passed so quickly!
The two new corps members I spoke with were already pretty certain they would accept (one had already accepted the offer!), so I didn’t have to do much convincing, but I did kind of feel like a CCC again, promoting Memphis and secondary math. I love sharing my experience and “expertise” with others, and though I may not always love my job, I love being here. There was no better way to end my day at school [at 6 p.m.] than to talk on the phone with new corps members who are super-excited about coming to teach here. Their enthusiasm reminded me that even on the toughest days, it is a privilege to be here, and multiple people believed in my potential as a teacher enough to select me, train me, hire me, and support me. And even when it seems that forward progress is elusive, I remain optimistic that my constant pep talks (which are, quite frankly, wearing me out) and EOCT/ACT messages will one day get through to all my students. Roll your eyes all you want, kids, at my broken-record mini-speeches: you’ll look back on this time and know I was right to be hard on you. I only hope that the realization is not the kind that accompanies regret.
Regardless of the day-to-day frustrations, I believe I will always be a cheerleader for Teach For America. The achievement gap is greater than myself, and I just have to remember that the movement for educational equity is worth any speed bumps that teaching tosses my way.
Sometimes, you get to see small change that makes this job worth it too: today, the student I wrote about at the end of this post texted me that she’d raised her ACT math score 4(!) points on the latest administration of the exam and wanted more help to get ready for the December test. On top of that, C., aka “Ms. –, why you so strict?” kid, who had gotten transferred out of my class because of a schedule change, came up and told me he wished he were back in my class because he “[wasn't] learning anything” in his new class (could it be? my imploring of students to be advocates for their own education actually hit home with him?). In the words of Matt Nathanson, I’ll learn to get by on little victories.