Posts Tagged ‘Teach For America’

Idealistic v. Realistic

I think that to some extent, I will always be an idealist.

Over the years, I’ve certainly made a transition & my views are more realistic than they used to be. I would credit this change to my education, both through school & through life experiences. As I engaged more in the world of activism, it made more sense to adopt a realistic view in order to get things done. I need to know what I’m up against if I’m going to have a chance of being successful.

However, I can still get caught up in those idyllic thoughts that rush to the surface. I indulge in them, thinking of how nice it would be if X just happened or if something like Y would lead to X. Things usually aren’t that easy, or in some cases just not possible. That doesn’t mean I’m not going to try, it just means that I need a different game plan. And I like to set myself up to cushion the blow if something doesn’t work out or if the outcome isn’t as stellar as I had hoped.

The reason I’ve been thinking about all of this has to do with this post.

I decided not to complete my application for Teach For America. (Yesterday was the last deadline for the 2011-2012 school year.) After talking to one of my friends who did TFA for a year, I had a lot to think about. I realized that I wasn’t giving myself enough time to make an informed decision about applying for the program. Making such a commitment takes more than a month or two of tossing the idea around, & I owe more to myself, the program, & children currently going through the education system.

I’m not sure what I will wind up doing in regards to TFA. My plan is to take more time to think about it as an option, to be more realistic about the program, the challenges, & my expectations of participating. I think I’ve covered the positive aspects already, which is what lead me to considering applying. Believe me, those positive aspects have stuck with me & made it hard not to apply by yesterday’s deadline.

I would have to say that the biggest deterrent I had was the fact that there is no guarantee of being placed in a job for the beginning of the school year. That coupled with what I know about the school district which was my first choice … I’ll be honest, it scared the heck out of me. I can’t commit myself to something & incur the costs of moving practically across the country (not to mention to a state which is so plagued by unemployment) without the guarantee of a paying job. I wish that I could, but I can’t.

For now, I need to find out more about the challenges facing schools & students in these poor, disadvantaged areas of our country. I can’t think that I can go in & change the problems facing the education system. Yes, I can help make a difference, but not in the way I was envisioning when I first started thinking about TFA.

I believe that the balance I have between my idealistic thoughts & realistic thoughts is what works, for me. Sometimes I need to be my own critic & point out that I’m not working with that balance though. This is a case where the scale was tipped to one side, for sure.

I’m not sure what the road ahead looks like. I don’t know if I’ll wind up doing TFA, if some other program will wind up being the place for me, or what other opportunities I might come across. I just know that eventually I’ll get to the right place … I told you I’ll always be an idealist!

 

PS — I just realized how ironic it is that a non-profit job listing website I use is called idealist.org!

The Right to Education

Lately I’ve been thinking about my career. I don’t consider the job I’m doing right now to be a career at all, for me it’s always been a placeholder: I need a job to pay my bills, unfortunately!

I want to be able to enjoy my career. I want my career to involve making a difference. I’m not willing to give that up.

So, I’ve continued looking for jobs & different opportunities. Then the other night I had a dream. I was subbing in a second grade class. There was a whole lot of other stuff going on in the dream, but the take away point is that I had a dream about teaching. I haven’t really given much thought to being a teacher since I was in middle school & that was my aspiration for the future. I had a brief moment where I wanted to be an interior designer & then set my sights on the human rights arena.

I thought the teaching dream was kind of strange, & then I thought about it more. Teaching would be much more enjoyable than the job I have right now. Teaching would be a much better stepping stone into the type of career I want. Teaching is definitely making a difference.

Then I started looking into Teach For America. I haven’t completely made up my mind, I have a lot more research to do, but it’s become a consideration. They offer great training, help with whatever certification you need or want, & it’s a great opportunity. They focus on areas that really need great teachers – a lot of cities facing poverty, education gaps, etc.

I’ve been reading about all of these different places I could request to teach in. At the moment, I keep going back to Las Vegas Valley. I already knew about some of the challenges facing education in Las Vegas because of one of the blogs I read: a mother with four children in the Clark school district. I’ve read about kids leaving their classes because their parents have had to send them off to live with relatives in other states due to unemployment or under-employment. I’ve read about parents who are supplementing their children’s educations with homeschooling so that they don’t fall through the cracks in the system.

Of course there are so many hurting school districts, which is why I’m doing my research not just on the districts, but also the cost of living & other things that are relevant to me. There’s a lot that goes into making a decision like this, in many different aspects & for many different reasons.

However, I feel myself becoming more & more drawn to the idea in general. Regardless of where I decide I would want to be placed & where I’m actually placed, the thought of teaching is really growing on me. I think it might be the step in the right direction that I’ve been looking for.

I certainly know that I would be making a difference, even if it’s not the way I imagined. I’ve been so influenced by the teachers who have been present in my life & will always be so grateful for them.

For any of you who are teachers, what lead you to make that decision?