Drinking the Kool-Aid

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Jan 23 2011

The Pull

Something big has happened. I said the words “I love teaching.” They just kind of came out of me.

 I typed them in an email, actually. And while I’ve tried these words out in my head a couple of times over the past few weeks, they have (until yesterday) been less appropriate than “I’m happy” or “Life is good.” 

I thought you had to be good at teaching to love it. Or… not bad at it, at least. Turns out, you just have to be getting better. Working at getting better, even.  Or something. You just have to see opportunity instead of flatlining. 

I wish this was more concrete. The only real thing that’s changed in my classroom is that now, kids generally do what I say. And I use “generally” very loosely. Probably… 55% of the time, kids do an okay job at following directions (and it’s a pleasant surprise each time). I don’t know exactly what that percentage was when I hated teaching—I know it felt like zero (maybe seven, actually), but my memory of specifics is fuzzy and biased, blurred by a shadowy haze of other awful memories.

 This is so surreal. How can this be me? How can THIS blogger be the same person as THIS blogger?


What I love about teaching, turns out, is the same thing that’s so beautiful about rowing, and the same thing that makes dance so addicting—the same thing, in fact, that causes that high of learning anything new. It’s the pull.    It’s the constant and workable demand to improve.     It is absolutely limitless potential, stemming not from talent or skill or hard work, but purely from the infinite truth that you will never, ever “get there.” 

It’s the constant chasm right around the corner, this gaping black hole defined by the next thing you could be better at. The fact that I’ll always be doing something wrong is not a discouraging weight, but a gripping force that sucks me forward. The emptiness just ahead—the knowledge that no matter what, there will always be room to grow—is why CIE defines me. There is nothing more beautiful or inspiring or compelling  than that nagging feeling that something could be better.

This blather is so much more about me than it is about teaching. But… it is really cool that TFA has given me an experience, and a sweet acronym, that allows me to define so much of who I am.

2 Responses

  1. Ray

    It’s so exciting to read a post that states so clearly what I love about teaching, especially in an inner city school with a high, and growing, ELL population. It’s so challenging that you never top out. At the end of each day, there is always something that I could have done better, an area where I can continue to grow. I’m 54 years old. I’ve been teaching forever. And there’s still so much room for me to grow in my teaching practice. I hope that you think about teaching long term.

  2. Chelsea

    After sifting through approximately 235 blog posts by disillusioned TFA CMs, it’s really encouraging to read something that affirms my initial reason for joining the corps. Thank you.

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“The minute you think of giving up, think of the reason you held on so long.” - John Maxwell


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