Drinking the Kool-Aid

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Apr 24 2011

But for the Forest

I really like the act of teaching. I love the call to analyze, improve, learn something, and improve faster. I love (and hate) that my to-do list is always bigger than me and I’ll never grow out of it. I love being the leader, the center of attention, the decision-maker. I love feeling a little twinge of ownership of the growth I witness.

For me, though, it’s just not the fulfilling job other teachers speak of. I’m fueled, but I’m not content. It has a lot of the ingredients I need—but if it were truly filling, I would feel like a mobilizer.

“Wait!” You say, “teachers are in a great position to be mobilizers!” You may be mouthing metaphors about gardening or parenting or being on the front lines. … and maybe all I have to do is wait until I reach some critical ratio of things I’m doing right to things I’m doing wrong before I can really feel my value to the cause as a life-changer, a mover, a doer. Today, however, as I try and make myself focus on planning lessons, I feel like I have bigger fish to fry.

Let’s face it—I’m distracted from my kids by thinking about this movement. I’m more spurred by the vision for San Antonio 2020 than I am by my vision for my 100-something students. Teach For America’s 2015 priorities make me want to stay late at meetings picking apart the how. It’s bigger, sexier, scarier (or perhaps less scary), and smacks of Changing the World.

And don’t get me STARTED on TFA San Antonio. Right now, I’m trying to plan my last few lessons before TAKS, but my mind keeps wandering down this other juicy path of “how can we leverage the 2010 charter corps members to really make the transition into teaching easier for 2011s?” “What are the most important weaknesses in our corps culture that a small group of corps members could tackle?” “How could Math CMs organize a district-wide math Saturday school?” “How can we stay better informed of local elections and propositions and mobilize our neighbors to make the right decisions for kids?”

I suppose it shouldn’t be a surprise: those things are easier to do, the results are more immediate, and the process is less frustrating.

I’m fully committed to teaching and I’m fully committed to my kids and real transformational change happening for real people, on the ground level. I know that paying attention to these bigger-picture plans is what keeps me motivated when trudging through the smaller stuff; most of the time I benefit from an ideal symbiotic relationship between a larger-scale calling that motivates me to power through the day-to-day and a daily reality that personalizes the calling and keeps it a burning need.

But I can’t help but thirst to get my fingers into work that changes the current, instead of just fighting against it.

2 Responses

  1. G

    You and I are on the same wavelength…we should really find the time to talk some more…in person!!

  2. Ms. Math

    ahh….I know what you mean. Exactly. I love thinking about big picture changes. I always have more ideas than time and energy to implement them. There are so many amazing causes. I want to work at institute this summer. I want to make my community better. I want to research Calculus. There is SO MUCH going on.
    And so many ideas.
    I know what you mean about being so distracted by the all of it.

    We should try to change the math world!

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