Blue Suede Shoes

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
May 23 2012

The Conclusion…

In the wake of finishing two years in the classroom, I have found myself reflecting a lot lately about those years, what they have meant to me, and what I am taking with me from the experience. I am disappointed, yet satisfied; angry, yet joyful. I am hopeful for what’s to come in my life, my students’ lives, and those of my fellow Memphis corps members, with whom I have shared struggles and victories over the course of the past 24 months.

Since I will be working in Memphis this summer, this end – the end of the school year and the end of Teach For America commitments – doesn’t feel real yet. I left this morning to go home and travel with my family, but the first of my friends to leave the city for good also departed today, and I had a melancholy feeling last night, knowing that when I return, more people will have left, perhaps (though I certainly do not wish this) never to be seen again. I felt much the same way on the last days of school, recognizing that I might not ever see some of my students again, despite the hold they have on my heart, some for two years running.

I finally started reading Relentless Pursuit, and I’m glad I never read it before joining the corps or while I was teaching. I appreciate the corps members’ stories more, knowing that I have been in their shoes and overcome similar challenges in the classroom. It makes me feel a part of a national movement even more. That’s what makes it a little easier to handle the Memphis exodus: there’s pride and comfort in the fact that so many of us are spreading out across the country (and world!) to do great things. In a few months’ time, friends I made in Memphis will be teaching in Denver, Minneapolis, D.C., Charlotte, and New York; recruiting in Boston, Chicago, D.C., and Kansas City; supporting corps members in New Orleans and Dallas; going back to school in Atlanta, Nashville, Clemson, and Edinburgh; not to mention all those, including my corps member roommates, who have been two constant towers of strength for me, staying in the classroom or joining staff in Memphis.

For the end-of-year conversation with my MTLD, I wrote out my story, pages on pages of reflection, and it was a very satisfying exercise. Though I have concluded my official commitment to Teach For America, there will never be a conclusion to my commitment to making educational equity a reality, because everyone deserves the chance to live out their deepest desires.

This was a dream in every sense of the word, from the first time I heard about Teach For America in high school from a friend whose sister had been in the corps, to my two years here in a city I have come to love, where I get to do something I love that challenges and fulfills me in a way no other job has…

When I met with Ashanta [associate general counsel], she recalled that her law school experience was richer for having taught and that her students were part of her motivation to succeed in law school. I hope to feel much the same way. Many of my students may not ever have the opportunity to pursue post-baccalaureate education; I owe it to them, as someone with the opportunity, to take advantage of it and to be successful in my endeavors. One of my biggest irritations is waste – it’s why I value efficiency, frugality, recycling, and economy of speech – and just as I hate to see students with so much potential waste it with misbehavior, I would hate to waste my education and opportunity by not doing my best in law school and graduate school. I also have students who want to be lawyers, and I want to be a role model for all of them, even those who have no interest in law, as a person of color (whether or not it is their own) who is successful professionally.

In terms of the field of education itself, I am driven to continue to pursue roles in education because I have seen the tenuousness of students’ dreams, and I need to be a part of building a stronger foundation for those dreams. Students need to know they have advocates out there for them, and the more people who are working for their increased opportunities, especially for those in such staggeringly impoverished places like Memphis, the less unstable their dreams will have to be.

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