Today I had my EOY conversation with my PD (see my point about acronyms!? If you aren't in TFA that didn't even make sense to you!) Translation: I had my End of Year conversation with my Program Director today. That's right, my two year commitment with Teach For America is coming to a close. I was reading back through some of my posts and it looks like I have a very negative view of teaching (mostly because every time I write on here I am on some sort of break and thanking my lucky stars that I don't have to go to work). I just want to rectify this. Teaching is the most difficult thing I have ever done in my life. Correction: my FIRST year of teaching is the hardest thing I've ever done in my life. Actually it was that combined with Kelly coming home from his 2 year mission in Uruguay, us getting married two months later, then hopping in our overloaded Ford Escort two days after that and driving across the country to a place where we had no home, no jobs, and no family. I'm not saying being married to Kelly is hard (it's the best!) just all of that smooshed together was uber stressful. I'm not even going to get into my evil assistant principal. I am trying to forgive and forget, so you can ask my mom and Kelly about those horror stories.
Anyway, what I was really trying to get into in this post is that I don't hate teaching. I just needed some breathers during that school year, and definitely appreciated every chance I got to not teach, cower in fear of my ass. principal (yes, that particular abbreviation was intentional), and take 2 seconds away from lesson planning to spend time with my wonderful, adorable, loving husband who saved my life and sanity last year. I hated my job last year, but it's not because of my students, or what my job was. I was actually quite successful with my students, and I love every single one of them, even A the corn chips kid. (He and many other students from last year still come and eat lunch with me.) I was horrified by the terrible organization (rather complete lack thereof) of my school and administration. I was literally terrorized by one school leader, and saw many chances for awesome students to do great things crushed by the inexperience, ignorance, or simple spite of the administration. It was heart breaking to go to work every day and work my hardest to help my students graduate, only to find that due to poor organization they had already passed my class at another school, or were not allowed into that chemistry class they needed to graduate, or kicked out of school for standing up for a classmate to ...I'm sure you can guess who.
Fortunately, our whole administration from last year has been sacked. Our new administration is leaps and bounds better, more supportive, and (imagine this) they actually care about the students at our school. We are having our first graduation this year!
I keep getting off topic, but what I am really saying is this: teaching is so rewarding. I love my students. I love the insights they have and all the things they teach me. I love Baltimore, I love Baltimore Liberation HS, I love History, I love TFA (never thought I'd be saying that 2 years ago). I just want the world to know that the achievement gap is real. My students do not get the same opportunities as other, wealthier students in our nation, simply because of the zip code in their home address. I have never had textbooks in my class. Most of my students never used Microsoft Word before this year, and we had very few opportunities to use our tiny computer lab to practice. These students have good parents who love them, care about their children's educations and futures, and even read to them since they were knee-high to an ant. Parental involvement is NOT the problem causing the achievement gap. Bad schools are. Even worse administrations are. Uncaring teachers are. Social promotion is. Chronic absenteeism with no consequences is. If you live in Utah and go to Weber High like I did, don't listen when people tell you Utah has horrible schools. You are lucky to go to a school with SMART boards, computer labs, projectors, enough paper, textbooks, markers, colored pencils, lots of electives like art class, band, choir, shop, sports teams, student government, a school store, a decent cafeteria, an attendance monitor, counselors, and sex ed. Take advantage of the opportunities given to you. My students don't have these things. My job is to give them a good education anyway. I am not the best one for the job, and I always feel like I am letting them down. They deserve so much more than what life has given them. I am overwhelmed by my job. I love my job. I am saddened by my job. I am angry at so much of what I see at my job--that the system has chronically failed my students. Teach For America is trying to fix these problems all over the nation, and while it is a big step in the right direction, it alone will never fix the problems plaguing our nation's educational system. But I do believe that its alumni who go on to start non-profits and schools, and move into school leadership, public policy, and politics are passionate people who have seen the problem first hand. It is time educators have a say in educational law. Teach For America (especially my PD Kate) supported me at school, helped me become a better teacher, and taught me that this enormous problem can be fixed one day.
I guess what I'm trying to say is this: thank you TFA, thank you Kate, thank you Baltimore City students for helping me become a better person. Thank you for stretching me to my limits and then some. Thank you for making me grateful for my education and opportunities that I didn't do anything to earn. It's time I pay up. Even though this is the end of my two year TFA commitment, I will be in the classroom next year. BCPSS, you have not heard the end of Mrs. A!