It's the eve of my 24th birthday and I'm asking myself this question: did Teach for America grant me opportunities and experiences that I am grateful for, or did the program in some ways ruin my life?
As I'm writing this I am in Boston for my school's spring break. A week in Boston to see friends and family is certainly enough time to make me want to reconsider my TFA commitment. Sure I can sit here and profess my devotion towards the TFA creed of ending the "achievement gap" and wanting to improve America's education for all students, but let's face it: for years now I've been determined to become a teacher and give my best to the students I serve regardless of Teach for America's help. Should I have just gone into teaching the old fashioned way (and better prepared way) and foregone jumping in blind?
My main argument would be that I wholeheartedly believe I should be in Boston. I look around this week and everyone I know, care about, and want to be around is here. Instead of starting over in Philadelphia where I don't know anyone, I could be living here and enjoying all facets of my life, even if my work were trying and difficult. I think that having that support around me would make me a BETTER teacher and would allow me to walk away from the stresses of work much more easily. Instead I am in Philadelphia, a city which to me symbolizes work and a place where I can never escape what brought me there.
Teaching has also brought me a lot of stress and cynicism. This past year has opened my eyes to education in America and the worst methods to solve the inequity among the school systems. Opening my eyes is a great thing, but if anything it's made me begin to decipher where I want to teach, and where I would not want to teach. Sure Philadelphia needs great teachers to help children achieve and move through the public school system, but I'm not nearly close to the potential of being the caliber of teacher that these students should have. And yet, there I am, on the front lines.
Teach for America has definitely given me a lot of things. Without this program I would not have achieved obtaining a full time job teaching the wonderful students that I have now. I would not have been given the opportunity to witness firsthand the challenges that comes with being a teacher, especially in an urban environment where school resources and organization are lacking. As I said, I support Teach for America and the things I have learned through their program.
But turning 24 and realizing that I am not (geographically) where I want to be in my life, and surrounded by the people that I want to be around (people I've spent years building great relationships with and who I truly care about and want to be around) makes me upset. But I'm not sure where to go from here. Now I'm halfway through an expensive grad program, I've completed the first year so why not finish the second?, and I have no job or apartment opportunities in Boston - so all of these things compel me to at least stick it out in Philly for another year. Another long year.
April is always a thought-provoking month for me...