Drinking the Kool-Aid

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
May 15 2012


It’s blog season.

New blogs and new bloggers popping up everywhere make me a little excited and a little… frustrated.

I love the newness, love the enthusiasm, love the optimistic anticipation. Of course. But reading First Posts is a little uncomfortable for me, because I can remember so well when I felt the same way and wrote the same things. I don’t feel the same way anymore, can’t bring myself to write those same things anymore.

I hesitate to call myself jaded, because I’ll always be my good old idealistic self deep down. I do, however, feel more sad and broken than I ever thought I’d feel after two years of The TFA.

The problem is so much less simple than it looked when I joined. After 3.5 years of college, I saw unbelievable injustice and I saw educational inequity as a root. I saw kids not getting the education they deserved, and I saw teachers as the interface between kids and their education… and while I didn’t say it (because even then I could smell the controversy), my idea of a solution came out in everything I thought, said, or wrote: Teachers are the providers of education and kids aren’t getting educated, so obviously we just need to find better teachers, train better teachers, BE better teachers. I guess I probably thought I’d found the ultimate gold-mine of Making A Difference.

Everything is so much more muddled and difficult than that. Reading more and learning more about this mess only brings more confusion and reveals more complexity. I agree with too much that I read and don’t disagree with anything.

Add to all this reading and blog-surfing my two years of experiences in the system (especially those experiences responsible for me sitting in a coffee shop blogging at 2pm on a Tuesday, instead of teaching 6th period), and … that’s when I run out of words. What do I SAY about this? How can I express my self-interested feelings of indignance along with my feelings of sad helplessness on behalf of my kids along with this ANGER I suddenly feel toward everyone?

I’m angry at everyone. TFA, at my school district, at my principal, at my MTLD, at the Unions, at Seattle, at Diane Ravitch, at Michelle Rhee, at all the 2010s and all the new CMs coming in. I’m probably mad at you, too. For no reason, except probably that I’m just mad at myself for not feeling like a born teacher.

I don’t feel helpless to the point of inaction—quite the opposite. I feel like MOVING. But I do feel just helpless enough that part of me wants to distance myself from this problem for a while so I can heal.

10 Responses

  1. I recommend skateboarding.

  2. I get this. I remember reading the “ughh stop the youthful idealism” posts by 2010s around this time last year and wondering if I’d ever hit that stage. I wouldn’t call myself jaded quite yet, but I definitely do cringe a little when I think about what the 2012s are in for.

  3. Mr. T

    Thanks for your honesty. I was a corps member 10 yrs ago, and just the sense of anger and frustration that you describe is a big thing that keeps me grinding it out for kids 10 yrs later.

  4. T. Ro. Dub.

    I agree with you. So many of my preconceived notions have been challenged. It was easier when I thought I knew all the answers! I love the way you phrased it: “I agree with too much that I read and don’t disagree with anything.”

  5. I wanted to stop by and say THANK YOU for posting about things like this. I left the corps in December (in small part because I’d read your blog for over a year and understood what I could expect the rest of my year to be like). I went through this sort of phase as well (along with a post-teaching phase that looked a lot like PTSD), but it ebbs eventually.

  6. I find the brand-new blogs kind of endearing. My favorite two flavors of first posts are the ones where the corps-member-to-be gives his or her entire resume, and the type where she or he explains the mission of TFA to the TFU readership.

    If nothing else, it provides a great window into why TFA’s recruiting practices are so effective.

  7. Dorothy

    Why are you mad at Seattle?

    • Wess

      Oh… because of my (limited) exposure to the reaction to the TFA region starting there. Seems like either TFA is forcing itself into places it’s not wanted, which makes me mad, or everyone in Seattle is just being petty and infighting instead of focusing on kids, which makes me mad.

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