Swallowing my pride

So only two weeks after being back from my Brazil trip the unemployment thing is getting old. Not aging in a slow way, like when you put apples in the fridge and they’re only slightly mealy after an entire month. Aging rapidly like a banana that you take to work on a hot summer day with the intention of eating it at lunch, only to realize that it’s mushy, covered in spots, and surrounded by fruit flies before you get to enjoy it. 

Which is why was pretty elated to hear that my roommate had an opportunity to offer me at her place of employment. A company which is actually high profile and would be pretty amazing to work for. Definitely beats submitting your resume and cover letter into a giant pool of potentially thousands with virtually no guarantee of even hearing that you completely wasted your time on their application. So I devoted my time to crafting the perfect cover letter, edited my resume based on my roommate’s feedback on what the hiring manager is looking for, and submitted the application only a couple of hours after it was posted online. 

The good news is I made it through the mandatory HR screening. The bad news is that I’m terrified that although I have an in with the company and have literally received feedback specific to the position I won’t be qualified to fill even an entry level position. Self-assuredness? Don’t exactly have much of that at the moment.

Advertisements

Playing it stupid

It’s been a while.

While I realize what a huge dramatic opening that is, it’s the obvious truth. Equally dramatic, and equally true, is the fact that this is a pretty huge time, as far as life experience, and transition, and character building…all that stuff. Of course, none of these things have really happened yet. The experience, sure. I came back from Brazil exactly a week ago, a trip that I can still hardly believe happened. Spending time away from my boyfriend (yes, the drama teacher) that equates to one-tenth of the time we’ve been dating, making my way around one of the most highly populated cities in the world when I don’t speak the language, getting separated from my friends and befriending a random group of Canadians who I proceeded to drink with while my friends “looked for me…” definitely a great experience to have for my first trip out of the country in three whole years.

I am, however, lacking in the totality of the transition, and I’ve only built minimal character. Five months ago I applied to what I’m pretty sure would have been my dream job, writing for an online editorial magazine I’ve subscribed to and admired for five years while simultaneously scoping out new and exciting venues around Los Angeles. Five months. Four rounds of applications. 15+ pages of sample writing and questionnaires. One new interview outfit. All to have the news that I didn’t get the job broken to me while I was traveling. Even worse, after all that no one even bothered to reach out with this news until I emailed the guy I interviewed with.

The short story is that I’m still looking for a job. I suppose it can still be called funemployment at this time, but the fact is that I don’t want it to last much longer. So you would think that when my vice principal texted me last week to ask if I would be willing to sub for AP Environmental Science until they find a full-time replacement I would jump on it.

And yet, here I am, a day after having turned down the offer. I thought about it for about fifteen minutes before making my decision, surprisingly. First there was my reasoning- to start, I really don’t miss the aspect of planning and grading late into the night, only to realize that nothing is executed according to plan and I’m struggling to help them see the importance of whatever it is I’ve set up. Additionally, I know nothing about teaching Environmental Science. Or an AP class, for that matter. I would hate to be the one to teach the incoming seniors, who are overall quite sharp, while we both know that I’m not on top of my shit. Even worse, whatever time I spent in the classroom with them I would be personally responsible for holding them back and lowering the eventual passage rate. Then there was the drama teacher’s reasoning, which is that I’ve already said goodbye, and that reopening that door would not only be awkward, it would be a step backwards.

So now I’ve turned down a steady source of income. It’s not safe. In an effort to make me feel better about my current status (or lack thereof) in life, my mom gave me the quote “playing it safe is a sure way to fail.” And yet I have no guarantee that playing it stupid will prevent me from failing. I guess that’s part of the fun…if you can call it that.

Appreciation is out there.

As I’ve stated before, I’m not in teaching for the thanks. Really, no sane teacher is, and if they are they won’t be there for long because it rarely comes. But when it does come, it sort of renews your faith in the effort you’ve put into your work thus far.

Below is an email that I received from a parent two days ago. While I am unfortunately not planning to reconsider my decision, it’s still nice to know that I had some impact on someone at some point in time.

 

I am writing to you because Marco has informed me that you will be leaving the school at the end of this school year. I have to say that it saddens me to hear this, especially because of the reasons he has shared with me. He informed me that it was due to the poor performance of the students and its reflection on you. If I may, you should not look at yourself to bear the blame for their performance. I have always believed and tried to emphasize this with my sons, that each person is responsible for their actions. I know that you are a very good teacher and that you do everything you can to help the students learn and grow. I saw what you did with my son, so I know that you do everything you can. Unfortunately, some students just choose to not want to learn. They choose to ignore the help that is given to them. They choose to take advantage of the opportunities that are given to them. As a teacher, you can only do so much and in my opinion, you have done more than most teachers would. You can’t blame yourself for students choosing to not do their work and for parents not to be involved in getting them to do their work. You did not let them down, they let you down.
I would hope you that your decision is not final. I would hope that you consider teaching for one more year. The school needs teachers like you. If not, I can only say that it was my pleasure to have known you and to have had you as my son’s teacher. Despite his struggles, you really helped him to become a better student.
Best Regards.

Difficult conversations

I’ve been avoiding a pretty tough conversation for a while now. A couple weeks ago I mentioned a student who’s in a relationship that is less than healthy. Over the past few days things have only gotten worse, to the point where she’ll cry in class while working together, sometimes even storm off. But one thing has remained the same, and that’s the fact that by the end of the class period they’re always fine and lovey dovey.

Naturally it’s not something I’ve wanted to ignore. I actually care a lot about this girl, and want to be sure that she’s making choices that won’t hinder her success, hold her back when she finally makes her decision for college. But I was wary. When you’re in high school, the last thing you want to hear is an adult in you’re life telling you that you shouldn’t be dating your boyfriend, that you’re making a huge mistake with the boy who you think is the love of your life. Speaking from experience, obviously.

Finally, I decided to pony up and initiate a talk, in spite of how difficult it may be. At the end of Advisory, after I’d dismissed everyone I asked if I could speak to her. I had no idea what to expect. As soon as I asked her how she’d been lately, she said that the past week or so had been difficult, and then immediately burst into tears. Naturally, I expected that she was going to say something about her relationship, about problems that they’d been having. Instead, she opened with a discussion of her family, how her mom had recently come out, and because her grandma isn’t accepting of it their family has been kicked out of her house and they’re in transition. Further more, the last time they had a blow out of sorts, which was just yesterday, she was crying because her boyfriend was doing all the work for their video project so that she could relax, while all she really wanted was to contribute so that she could take her mind off of things.

While it was extremely saddening to hear about how tumultuous things are in her family right now, it was kind of nice to hear that her boyfriend was doing something to help her. But I just couldn’t let it go. I’m pretty impressed with my transition actually- after she revealed all of this I asked her if she had talked to any other friends about it, and specifically cited two friends who she used to hang out with frequently before she got into a relationship. Finally, after that was brought up she mentioned that she doesn’t really spend any time with them because she’s typically spending time with her boyfriend. So I inquired as to why, only to learn that his previous girlfriends had cheated on him, so he’s now paranoid that it’s going to happen with her. Really, the best advice I had to offer was that in order for him to truly get past that, they need to become comfortable spending time apart, because trust that only exists when your significant other is present isn’t really trust at all.

It’s kind of odd, knowing that I’m leaving in one week and won’t get to see how things play out. While I do feel a bit better about the situation after hearing that she joined sports so that she could have some more time to herself and they could start decreasing the amount of time they spend together. So I guess all I really have is faith that she’ll prove to be the smart girl that I know she’s capable of being. Fingers crossed.

Summertime sadness.

So after all of my posts proclaiming that “soon it will be official,” it finally is, because I have at last told all of my classes that I’m not coming back next year. Well, almost all of them- for whatever reason when I had my elective class today I didn’t break the news. I can’t fully articulate why, technically it should matter to the freshmen because the ones who would be in Anatomy vs. Chemistry would be in my class next year…but I just had this feeling that it was only a relevant announcement to the juniors and sophomores, and the sophomores already knew. I’ll probably mention something on Friday.

Anyway, now that this event has passed, one of my biggest fears has been put to rest- that none of the students would care. Late fall semester one of the founding teachers left, despite the fact that it was in the middle of the school year. I knew she was getting a bit fed up earlier, but I didn’t know the extent until she told us during a softball game. It was to the point where if she’d waited a few months she’d have received a bonus of close to $1000, and she didn’t stay to cash it in despite the fact that she didn’t have a job lined up yet. I guess this was apparent to the students, and I’d continually hear word of how mean she’d gotten, how she always gave them book work for Spanish class, etc. It took quite some time for our admin to find a replacement for her, so she spent months impatiently waiting, and when it finally came time for her to prepare for departure and announce to her students, none of them really seemed to broken up about it. Naturally I don’t know how their reactions were in the moment, but behind her back I received repeated word of how they weren’t really going to miss her.

I am, by nature, a fairly sensitive person. I have no clue how I would have reacted if I received even an inkling of these emotions from my students. So when I made the announcement in Advisory I was fairly tentative. Naturally not all students were going to break down emotionally, but I had a fair amount of them express what seemed to be genuine sadness. True disappointment that I wasn’t going to be there for them during Advisory the following two years. And in the classes that followed, I received similar sentiments, even had a group of students who had heard the news through the grapevine come in to have a conversation with me during nutrition. Probably the best part was the comments made by some of them- admission of the fact that they pushed back when I made them do things related to college but that they were grateful for it. Reasoning that homework turn in rates were low because they came from “crappy public schools” where they weren’t used to doing anything, and that it wasn’t a reflection of me. Adamant declarations that no matter what, they were going to feel resentment towards the new teacher who takes my place.

While these conversations have definitely saddened me and made me feel like a horrible person, just another teacher who’s leaving and essentially abandoning the students she formed relationships with, one thing does somewhat reconcile that. Reflecting on some of the students who expressed their sentiments and realizing that earlier in the school year, or maybe the previous year, this was a student with whom I butted heads. A student who didn’t really care for me at some point. Maybe even one with whom I could never imagine getting along with. It kind of makes me wonder if my relationship with my present headache, who I actually avoid writing about, could have transformed into something positive in another year.

Unfortunately, we’ll never know. So as things stand today I say adieu and best wishes to all my students but one- and good riddance to that one little fucker.

The big news.

Tomorrow my decision becomes TRULY official. Tomorrow is the day I finally tell my students that I’m not coming back.

My hand was pretty much forced. I knew I was going to wait until after Memorial Day to say something. I have a lab report project due this week (tomorrow and Wednesday, to be exact) and I didn’t want the students checking out before I even assigned it. However, I hadn’t decided if it was going to be immediately after, or if I was going to wait until the last week. Eventually the schedule for the last week was released, and I realized that we were having all half days, meaning no Advisory. Naturally, I had to tell my students before then- but should it be at the start of the week, so that I had the entire week with my class, or should it be on Friday, the day when we normally have circle?

So how did I eventually make the decision? Well on Friday, during our drive to Disneyland, the drama teacher let it slip that two of my favorite students from last year already know- apparently they posted a list in the office about the class schedules for next year, and under Anatomy & Physiology it says “new teacher.” Would have been nice if I’d gotten a heads up about that so I could have told my students before word began to spread…but what are you gonna do? I have no idea how many students know- I haven’t even seen this list and I’m often in the office, so I imagine it isn’t TOO conspicuous…but the point is that I need to break the news before it becomes common knowledge.

Anyway, it’s been quite a long time since I wrote. I always say I’m going to fall out of this pattern, and yet here I am again. Oddly enough it’s been a weird few weeks, mostly because I’ve been super busy, either with TFA stuff or meeting up with people in this attempt to gain some sort of guidance or leads on future employment opportunities. So, in an attempt to catch up on what’s been going on, here’s a list of the most important things that have happened since I last posted, from least important to most important.

1. I signed up for Lyft.

For those who don’t know, Lyft is essentially a ride-share service, cheaper cabs with young, friendly drivers, fast service- since I discovered it a little under a year ago I’ve only taken a cab about 3 times. I’d been thinking about it casually for a while, and had mentioned it to the drama teacher. He signed up before I did, as a way to make extra money over summer, then realized that he had to do 30 rides in 30 days in order to get approved, so he started immediately. In an attempt to earn extra money before our Vegas trip, he went hard for about two weeks, and made about $700. That was enough to convince me. While I’m excited to know that I’ll have a source of income while I’m unemployed, it does make me nervous and a little embarrassed that for a while, I will have to explain to people that it is my primary form of income. Additionally, it makes the whole unemployment thing a bit too real.

2. I have a boyfriend.

The drama teacher, officially. We’d been dating for almost seven months when we had the discussion on May 3. Initially, I wasn’t planning to bring it up again until school ended, but after literally four people asking me in one week I became visibly upset when something that should have been small set me off during dinner, and he pried until I gave in and told him what was on my mind. After a conversation that was fairly embarrassing on my end due to my lack of rationality, he finally told me that he had been ready to make it official for a while, but was following the history teacher’s advice and trying to plan a creative way to ask me, since he’d made such a big deal about it before.

If this were my other blog, or a journal of mine, this news would be at the top of the list. Pretty significant, given that I’ve had two people call me their girlfriend prior to this, and in hindsight neither of them count aas real relationships. However, this blog is more about my professional life, meaning I have to reprioritize. But as far as employment goes, this is significant in the sense that it gives me more of a tie to Los Angeles. Say June 6 rolled around, Zach told me he didn’t want to make it official yet, and I had to guts to follow through on my promise to myself to break things off under that condition…I wouldn’t have any true ties. The longer I stick around, the more friends leave Los Angeles- this year alone, one of my best friends who I’ve known since high school is moving to NOLA for grad school, and another close friend is moving back to San Diego once she graduates in three weeks. I don’t even know if my current roommate and I are going to be living together in a few months.

Should a boyfriend really be a tie to a city? I always told myself I wouldn’t become one of “those girls” who stays around just for a guy. And yet, here I am trying to look exclusively for jobs in LA. Granted, no other jobs I’m serious about have come up…but for now it is what it is.

3. I had a job interview.

This was a big one. The second most involved job application I’ve completed since the first stage of TFA. I would kill for this job. I’ve followed this online editorial company for five years. I love their writing style. It would involve continuous writing, as well as scouting out locations of new cool events that are happening in LA. Two and a half months after I submitted, when I’d given up on hearing from them, I got a request for a phone interview. And when it happened, I thought it went really well. I was told that if I made it I’d hear back for a follow up and a second writing sample within a week…and nothing. So it was a huge glimmer of hope, then it was all pulled away.

I’m sure there’s more…but for now, these are the things that are defining my life, and the two weeks that remain of my employment. Until next time.

An epic “love.”

“There’s a disturbance going on outside, should I check it out?”

These are the words the substitute uttered as he walked into my room during lunch.

Probably the most disturbing thing about this statement was the fact that while I noticed this “disturbance” it didn’t truly register until he pointed it out. Just what was this disturbance, one may ask? It was two of my students, engaging in one of their daily “lovers’ quarrels.” While I didn’t disclose all of this information, I did mention that it was pretty much a daily occurrence, and when he said “Oh, so they’re just being dramatic?” all I could answer with is “Pretty much.”

I seriously don’t know what to do about this couple. The girl is in my Advisory, and is one of the sweetest, most talented girls. Her boyfriend, on the other hand…last year he was essentially the bane of my existence. Legitimately, the knowledge that I had to teach him this upcoming year made my stomach crawl. Naturally, I was concerned when the two of them started dating, but it was last year. I thought there wasn’t too much to worry about, as this started their freshman year…and yet here we are, at least 12 months later and they are STILL dating.

It’s not all bad. She has truly helped him. She is incredibly patient, and not only puts up with his shit but also does her best to inspire him and keep him on task. He has really improved quite a bit…not saying a ton because there’s still a long way to go. For example, a true sign of growth would be not putting your head down and refusing to do anything in class just because you can’t sit with your girlfriend during independent practice. But hey, baby steps, right? However, I really haven’t seen how he is improving her life in any way. For example, she’s in my science class AND chemistry….meaning she’s smart enough that she shouldn’t have to take a life science course over again, and yet she’s getting a B. Additionally, she has virtually no friends at this point. I only ever see them with each other, and her two close friends who are also in my Advisory have pretty much proclaimed that they never hang out with her anymore.

Really, the biggest issue is how unhealthy everything seems. For example, the fact that the fight they had today was typical of their relationship. Just on Friday, they were fine…came in to class late together…somehow got into a near silent fight during Jeopardy when they were on the same team…forced me to separate him from her because he kept poking at her when she was trying to bury her head in despair…and then made up by the end of the class period with kisses and I love you’s. NOT normal.

But what do I do? As her Advisory teacher, I feel like I can’t sit back and watch her settle into this relationship without expressing her concerns, since she has no more friends and her mom doesn’t see the extent of her interactions with him the way I do. So now, in the next three weeks I have to figure out some way to bring this up without being some preachy teacher who only pushes her further into his arms.

You know, the small responsibilities.

Entitlement

Obviously teachers don’t go into their profession for the thanks.

Students rarely appreciate their teachers in the moment. And while some parents might appreciate what you’re doing for your child, you probably won’t hear that from them because, much like how teachers prioritize making the negative phone calls over positive, they’re too busy focused on the classes their child is having some sort of trouble in.

Regardless, I’ve noticed two recent cases of entitlement in students which are highly annoying, to say the least.

Naturally, now that the school year is almost over I’m getting barraged by students who want to raise their grades. About a week and a half ago one student kept on coming back to raise his, which is admirable, of course. Especially because he doesn’t have a failing grade due to a lack of effort, just due to difficulty with understanding and low quality work at times. Definitely forgivable. Unfortunately, he wasn’t the only one. So many students were there for different things that I felt like I was getting pulled in different directions trying to accommodate them all. While there wasn’t an ideal solution, it seemed that the most sensible thing was  to work with the students who simply needed to receive make-up work from me that they could then complete independently, then help him on the homework problems he needed me to walk through the steps with. By the time it came time for that we had maybe 25 minutes left until 4:30, when I’d been planning to leave, but since him and five other students had stayed behind that day to grasp it I said I’d stay longer than I’d initially planned.

The response was from him was an inquiry about how late I was staying, and I said I’d stay until 4:45 or 5. I ended up staying until 5 before packing up. He, however, did not think that this was sufficient and said “Only 5?? You should stay until at least 6.” I get it. I shouldn’t be so harsh because as a student, he really has no idea how much goes into preparing for work the next day as a teacher. There is one other teacher who I have seen stay until 6 on more than one occasion, so it’s not unheard of. He probably didn’t realize that we don’t get paid hourly for the time we spend on campus past 3:30. But even knowing all of that, I still thought it was important to teach the life lesson that when someone is essentially doing you a favor you should at at least somewhat grateful. While you don’t have to kiss their ass, especially when it’s something that a decent person would do (like staying to tutor students who need help to finish homework for your class), calling them out for “not doing enough” is generally not the best move. I didn’t hesitate to tell him this…except for the ass-kissing part.

The second case has been more of an ongoing thing with these juniors who I taught last year. They’re two girls and one boy, and all pretty close friends. Last year they ate in my room a lot. This year that trend didn’t continue right away, as I was admittedly trying to distance myself from students so they didn’t think they could get all chummy with me and take advantage, and I’d always leave my room and eat in the office so sophomores wouldn’t come in. As the year continued that became less feasible some days, sometimes because I needed to keep a student in for a bit so I couldn’t leave in time. Also, the brief trend of all the teachers eating together ended relatively quickly, so eating lunch in the office was often having to put up with whatever obnoxious kid(s) was/were in there for lunch detention. Not ideal. So gradually, they started eating in my room more and more frequently. In fact, one of them started having drill team practice in my room every day until the club disbanded fairly recently.

Not a big issue at all. But really, there is something depressing about staying in your classroom ALL DAY. Not to mention the fact that sometimes you need to refill on water, go to the bathroom, heat up your lunch, AND make copies all during the short lunch period. And I noticed that they’d make some comments of frustration when I wouldn’t be in my classroom all lunch for them to hang out. Last week it got particularly out of hand, and I was waiting in the office for about 15 minutes trying unsuccessfully to heat up my lunch in our toaster oven, and didn’t go back until the very end of lunchtime. Unfortunately, they’d left their stuff in my classroom, even though I told them I wasn’t sure how long I got back, and sure enough I got attitude as they were leaving my classroom with the things they’d retrieved by going through the history teacher’s classroom next door. Probably the worst part was the fact that when I called the student out on it and said that it’s understandable that I have things to take care of during lunch she interrupted and said “Gosh, it’s just a joke, smile for once.” Sure it is.

I realize these seem like petty complaints, and that when I enter a different field of work I’ll have to deal with far worse from people who I can’t call out on anything. And yet, I wonder what will actually wind up being more frustrating in the long run.

The Beautiful Game

Soccer really is a great equalizer.

As I’ve mentioned a few times before, I’m traveling to Brazil this summer, specifically to watch the World Cup matches. The problem is- I’m a total bandwagon fan. Last time the World Cup was going on I was immersed in it. I legitimately woke up at 5 am to watch the first game of the day. At least, until summer school started. But the point is, I was completely into it UNTIL the very end…and from that point on I could count the number of soccer matches I’ve watched to completion on one hand.

Two days ago I kept a student in during lunch. Not just any student. This student has been a particularly challenging case for almost two years now. He’s in my Advisory, and while I feel like I’ve learned a lot about many of my Advisory students, heard some of them open up about things in their lives…and yet I have yet to truly connect with him. That would be acceptable…as ideal as it would be, I’m obviously not going to have a true connecting with each and every student. However, I now have him in my Anatomy class,where the issues are more serious. There has been yelling out in class. There has been explicit plagiarism. Ditching my class. Blatant ignoring of instructions. Complete lack of participation. And then there are the bathroom trips. The DAILY bathroom trips.

The last one is truly the least of my worries. However, he’s failing, and all students are supposed to adhere to a policy of 5 bathroom trips per semester, and after that they have to stay and make up the time. For each time he’s gone beyond the 5th visit, he has to stay and pick up an increasing amount of trash. It hasn’t deterred him though, so I still get the daily request. When he stayed on Tuesday he had to pick up sixty. SIXTY pieces. While he was completing this, one of his friends (who’s also in my Advisory, but rarely comes in time to be there) came in to wait for him.

Naturally, I assumed that they would head out as soon as he was done, but the student who came to wait for him had been trying to load a soccer game on the iPads. When it didn’t work, they both sat down and asked to use my computer to stream. While I was somewhat wary, I asked what they were watching then handed it over. Surprisingly, after I told them that I wanted to watch so that I could learn more about soccer before the World Cup, they were totally welcoming. Not only were they welcoming, they actually kept the conversation going, asked a ton of questions about my trip and what I had planned, and continually offered up tidbits about the players so I could be more knowledgable about what was going on. It was, hands down, the nicest conversation I’d had with the student who was initially picking up trash.

I suppose this isn’t groundbreaking news- anyone who’s worked with kids can attest to the fact that forming relationships with them about something other than school is the best way to get through. What was surprising was the realization that these relationship-changing conversations can happen long after your initial interaction with them, apparently even two whole school years later. Am I convinced that this is going to bring about an epic shift in this student’s behavior and work ethic? Not entirely. But it’s nice to know that at least for the next few days we can see each other as comrades of some sort, rather than adversaries. All due to just 20 minutes of soccer.

An ironic end.

Two days ago, one of the most dreaded parts of TFA finally came to an end- the PLC. The ruiner of Saturdays and deflater of self confidence. Needless to say, I was dreading it. I got so little sleep last week that the idea of waking up before 8 seemed quite daunting, to say the least. Perhaps the worst part is the fact that last year they made the last two half day PLCs, meaning the end was much more bearable than the beginning. Yet somehow, as I went through the day I realized that this PLC wasn’t going to be quite as hellish as some of its predecessors had been. For starters, my first session was “Structured Work Time,” a new addition that was made because people kept hounding them about providing more time to plan during the PLC so it felt at least somewhat productive. The first time I was fortunate enough to be placed in this session it consisted of a staff member sitting and “supervising” us- really just handing us a pre and post reflection form to hand out while he read in the front of the room. This time, there wasn’t even someone else there. Then my second session was with a really chill corps member who showed us some resources then pretty much let us do our own thing. This was followed by a BBQ lunch, which would have been delicious by any standards, but was top of the line compared to the boring sandwiches and salads that are usually catered.

Surely, I thought, the sessions after lunch are going to be a doozy. Not only was I dreading the inevitable food coma, but thought there was no chance either session could possibly be chill. Throughout the year we’ve had a series where we focus on critical pedagogy, and it’s essentially been a burden for the entire year, right down to the readings that were assigned as pre-session work. My expectations could not have been more far off, however. The corps member who leads this, I must say, is the coolest person on staff by far. Super hipster, which I suppose could be a bit polarizing, but not in the condescending way. More importantly, he’s not one who fits the TFA mold- He’s not constantly talking about data, or using buzzwords while making an unspoken comparison between us and the TFA legends who are so regularly praised. Overall, he’s just chill. Which is why I think he was totally real with us about why nothing was planned for our session. Essentially, he was dating this girl who was pregnant with his baby, and excitedly expecting…only to have a doctor’s visit during which they were told that the window for the date of conception occurred while she was in Europe…and he was not. Apparently she did not take it well when he brought this fact up at a later date, and flipped out, refused to speak to him, and is refusing to give him any custody, which has resulted in an ugly legal battle. Absolutely devastating, and I can’t imagine how he’s dealing with it. The worst part is that I can’t imagine him being anything less than a phenomenal father, so the thought that this woman would try so hard to exclude him from the child’s life, whether it is his or not, is pretty heartbreaking.

After that bomb was dropped we all worked independently, and I was certain I was going to be re-immersed in the TFA speak. My final session was actually switched last minute and I was placed with a doctor from UCLA who had requested me to be in his group. Seemed like a no-brainer- I was a biology major at UCLA and if it wasn’t a forum for pre-med corps members it must have been about some science curriculum they wanted to implement or receive feedback on.

Turns out it was neither. I was the first person in my session, and when I inquired how he chose the participants for this session he said “I’m going to be honest…I went through the mid-year surveys and specifically sought out people who were less than satisfied with TFA.” I’m never one to lie on a feedback survey of any sort, but I really didn’t remember submitting overwhelmingly negative responses, so I was a bit surprised. As I saw some of the corps members who filed in however, my surprise was diminished. What started out as a conversation about how violence and some other social issues affect our students’ learning eventually turned into a TFA bashing session. About the unsustainability of the program and the charters we’re placed in, of the lack of transparency with first year corps members about what we’re getting into, and perhaps most of all, the expectation that we can all be superheroes like the aforementioned TFA legends. Essentially, those of us who fall short by the end of our two years are made to feel as if there is something fundamentally wrong with us. This isn’t something I have focused on a great deal in recent years, but vocalizing it in a safe space with other embittered individuals not only put things into perspective, but also caused a mini wave of relief to wash over me- I’m not the only one who isn’t perfect.

So there you have it. Interesting that after approximately 10 Saturdays over the course of two years which were characterized by various TFA agendas, I spent the last hour and a half of the final Saturday heavily critiquing all of those ideals. At least I can definitely say these trainings ended on a high note.