If you’ve been reading for a while, you can probably tell that I’ve been trying pretty hard for the last year or so to define myself. Am I a badass? Am I strong? Am I lazy, or super-motivated, or somewhere in between? What motivates me? What do I care most about, and is it what I should care most about? Am I good at teaching? Am I a leader? Am I a good person? An impressive person? Am I the same person I was in college? If not, is that okay? Is this who I’m going to be for the rest of my life, or is this just who I am as a teacher?
It’s not a secret that a little soul-searching is common for recent college grads, but these questions get pretty intense when you go from SO high in fall 2009 to SO low in fall 2010, to getting-better-limbo-land ever since. I use every day and every decision, it seems, as more evidence for my self-evaluation, and all the ups and downs have had a pretty disorienting effect; turns out completely redefining yourself every day is exhausting.
Reflecting on who and what I am, evaluating myself, is one of my favorite pastimes—my other favorite is doing the same thing about TFA (Fellow Kool-aid Drinkers take note: This means I’ve learned how to tell the difference!). Redefining and evaluating TFA is slightly less exhausting—not least because one has to hold one’s Self constant in order to evaluate anything Other.
I noticed today, however, that my reflections on TFA as an organization and those of myself as a human being are roughly, and not coincidentally, inversely related. If TFA is a noble establishment, then I am a selfish lazy person who can’t live out its nobility. If I’m a struggling teacher, TFA is ever-supportive and waiting for me to just ask for help. If TFA’s expectations are absurd, then I am a really hard worker just doing the best I can. If I’m perfect, TFA is flawed; if TFA is missing the point, I’m grounded in reality. If I’m a good math teacher, no one in TFA understands the math gap and how different and how much more unfamiliar it is than the overall achievement gap. If this TFA transformational teacher thing is possible, I must not be the on-top-of-it badass I want to be. My view of TFA and of myself can’t be in harmony, because if they were, somehow I’d be a TFA rock star transformational teacher and my kids would all be accepted to Rice University by now.
But this thought occurred to me last night: If TFA and I are against each other, who is going to win? At the end of this 2nd year, who will have come out on top (or will the finish line be after my third?)? Will I, having been to the depths of nightmare torture teacher agony, and slowly climbing since, have crawled myself up high enough to call myself a success? Or will TFA continue to have the upper hand, showing me examples of transformational secondary teachers who have overcome situations just like mine or worse, showing me people who do more than I do with less than I have, showing me all the ways I could be Really Doing This if I could just muster up the energy and will?