So here begins the Blair Blog (blairg) of things I observe and think about during this TFA adventure I’m certainly having. This past week and a half I have gone through Teach for America’s induction process, started institute, and decided not to quit.
“Quit?” you may immediately ask. Well, yes, I was seriously thinking of going home after three days of being here.
To be honest, my arrival and transition into New York City was not easy at all. I did not want to leave Houston. I had a job that gave me a lot of room for creativity and growth, I had a job opportunity on the horizon that would have allowed me to teach in a dual-language program, and I was feeling very very secure in my place within the Houston community. I got to this city and became uncomfortably overwhelmed. I looked around in the TFA halls and did not really connect to anyone authentically for at least a couple days. Those first 48 hours I felt very lost and isolated despite the throbbing amount of spirit and enthusiasm that Teach for America tries to instill in those opening ceremonies and bbqs.
I’m very glad I had that half week of terribleness. I’m glad that I gave serious consideration to the thought of coming home and pursuing my dreams without the support of this organization. I’m also very glad that I’ve decided that I’m going to stay.
This organization is not perfect. At first I had a huge ideological issue with the simple fact that like Gary Rubenstein I don’t believe that the training received at institute or induction is sufficient to produce super-effective teachers. I started to think about what I wanted in terms of long-term goals not just for myself but for the world. I dreamed of a world where the teaching profession is respected at the same level of the medical and law fields, thinking of these two in particular because they do indeed impact their client/patients lives in the same way that a good or bad teacher can. I wondered what Teach for America was doing to help or hinder that dream.
I worried that the summer school kids who would depend on us this summer would be at a great disadvantage if some of us were not effective enough and if they ended up having to repeat their grade.
I got worried that TFA had put me in the wrong place, pulled me up out of a corp region in Houston where I would have been serving my community and making a great impact with my connections that I had spent years developing in Houston, even at my young age. I am still incredibly concerned that they have been overly generous with their hiring predictions, and that a lot of us will be sent out of this region for jobs in other regions, left to worry about leases we already signed and having to readjust to a whole new city and state. Fortunately I have recently made the decision to hold off on the whole renting an apartment thing mostly because it is hard to get a place anyway if you don’t have a real contract-in-hand job.
I moved through some of these obstacles simply by starting to fit in. I have found many interesting people here who are good outlets for my rants and worries. I still have a great network back home. I thought more about the role of Teach for America, and decided that while it is imperfect, it is not as inherently flawed as I had come to worry myself into. I posited that most of us have just gotten out of at least 16+ years of schooling, and have spent the majority of our lives being a participant in classrooms – likely some of that experience rubbed off in an informative way into our attempts to create and replicate positive future experiences. I consoled myself that this is a movement, it is a way into becoming an actor that fights the real problems at hand, and that I get the space and resources to think critically about the achievement gap and how to solve it in a way that I would not really have outside this environment.
There were many organizational and content snafoos this week. A lot of time stressing the “Teaching as Leadership” impact model when I feel like we should have been getting more of the practical information for how to make summer school work. I would have much rather had the induction-type classes during summer school, or at least a whole other month before this month of classes, even if they were online webinars. I don’t think they should have accepted me so late, I would have much rather had them defer me a year, but I’m pulling out every adjustment technique I can manage. This week I actually got a shoutout from my CMA for making the transformational change from negative nancy on Monday to the snappy-practice demonstrator I am today.
I think it is going to be very important that I use the space on this blog to be very honest and thorough about this journey. I absolutely believe that the achievement gap is wrong and that it needs to be solved. I do believe that Teach for America is one of the members of the team that is trying to do something positive about it. I feel like I am a member of that team.
I am also Blair Ault, however. Daughter of two very smart parents who taught me to be critical of my surroundings and suspicious of what everyone takes at face value. I am not furiously writing down everything my Curriculum Specialist says, but I am definitely learning some practical tips. I’m not everyone’s friend here, but I have spotted some strong allies to talk to.
This entry is long, 1000 words now. I’ll stop here for now and hopefully update about my first day at M.S. 331/P.S. 306 on Tuesday!