Slowly, I am growing my own Teach for America timeline and list of experiences. I feel so much a part of this organization and its mission, though I have yet to teach my first formal math lesson. Speaking for the first time with a corps member, crafting my personal statement and sample lesson plan, checking in with a recommender from my perch on a seesaw (a fundraiser for global water access), scrutinizing 30-second exchanges from my interview day—all of these experiences invigorated me and made me realize how much I wanted to be a Teach for America corps member.
As the days following my interview marched on, I spent less time thinking about the details of my behavior and conversation on that day. However, it seems that all the energy I managed to focus away from Teach for America came flooding back on November 10, the day of the big announcement. I let my parents and friends know I would be checking in that evening and went about my day as normally as possible. Fortunately for me, my evening tasks included the creation of a slideshow from my summer work at an international school—perfect stress relief—and tutoring at the local juvenile correctional facility. The girls there consistently redirect my anxieties, self-centeredness, and worldly concerns, and this night was no exception. I actually left feeling that were I not accepted into Teach for America, something else would work out.
While I remain grateful for that attitude, I am glad I didn’t need to enact it for too many hours. The news came by a recorded message on my phone; I will always remember the way in which this ’03 corps member said, “I just wanted to congratulate you on your acceptance to Teach for America…” and the feelings that followed. Later that evening, I took another emotional roller coaster ride as I looked online for my specific regional and grade / subject level placement. I would be teaching secondary math (grades 6-12) in Atlanta, Georgia!
As family and friends probed for my reaction, I had to develop and articulate it myself: Teach for America places based on need and ability to certify, so while Atlanta was not my first choice (it was highly preferred, though) I look forward to my life and work there. This is especially the case after having visited to take my Georgia educator exams; excepting the frenzy a snow dusting causes in the South, it was a successful first trip full of good food, sweet CMs, and some meaningful insights into Teach for America. Plus, Teach for America uses the same framework across region so I know the experience will be second to none! As for math, I am absolutely excited and feel this subject is a better fit than the other I gave preference, elementary education. I even am taking a math class now and discovering some websites that may give me strategies to teach the subject. (I’m doing this even as I remind myself that teaching is much broader than the subject matter, and my connection with students and their families will be key)
I’ve another four months on campus and then to a series of big changes: student to teacher, North to South, racial majority to minority, campus sites to urban sprawl. Even as I look forward to these coming adventures—and that excitement will only grow when my pre-institute work arrives—I am trying to enjoy these last months of being an undergraduate. There may be a time when I wish for them to return!
One day, all children in this nation will have the opportunity to attain an excellent education…