Last Saturday was the TFA Detroit Summit, which concluded our First Eight Weeks (this is both a unit of time and our first big PD period where we’re being monitored for growth). It was good to see everyone from the corps, since I mostly just see the few TFA teachers at my school and the science cohort members. Someday I’ll blog about why I think the TFA PD schedule needs to change (short version: why not have a daylong session once a month instead of sessions several times a week? It’s more difficult to plan and execute, but it would save me several hours of commuting each week. If we need to get this info right away, why not a webinar or conference call?). At the Summit, there were several really interesting PD sessions and some very engaging speakers (including the awesome Michigan Teacher of the Year!).
However, one speaker said something which really hit a discordant tone with me, and I think it’s a common misconception about TFA. This speaker, during a very awesome talk, mentioned several times that when you’re not getting the support you need in your personal life, that should be a sign that you need to be alone so you can power through and do the work you need to do. She was speaking in a larger context about teachers who don’t receive the physical, social, and psychological support they need from their communities (which is a HUGE problem, although thankfully I am in an amazing school that provides very well in all of these areas). But here’s the problem: Teaching is no time to be alone.
On the simplest level, teaching is time consuming. As I mentioned in a previous blog post, I basically have a 40 hours a week job, plus several hours of prep, plus several hours of mandatory professional development (not TFA-stuff!), plus many hours of grading. I am lucky enough to have people in my life (THANK YOU) who will do things like help me enter grades while I’m visiting, send me care packages when I don’t have time to go to the store, and even school staff members who come in to help me clean my room after school. The simple need for more hands on deck is occasionally overwhelming. Don’t even get me started on the emotional support needed when kids make hurtful comments about you or literally destroy a lab you spent hours devising. Let’s just say that sometimes you need a very literal shoulder to cry on.
Interestingly, in my very unscientific study of Detroit corps members, an astonishing number are married, engaged, or in serious relationships. Despite TFA’s reputation as being for young, single, recent college graduates, we have many corps members who are in their 30s or later, married, with children. In fact, I was often asked during Induction and Institute if I was married – it was just one of the polite ‘getting to know you’ questions. These corps members seem to struggle just an ounce less, be a gram more centered. The sheer proximity of having someone you talk to every night is an amazingly effective way to maintain perspective.
I know it’s not Thanksgiving yet, but I just want to thank all of you that are being those supports for me – the people who I call when I’m having a panic attack about how I’ll never get everything done, the people who understand when I don’t return their calls for two weeks, the people who follow this blog even though I’ve been totally delinquent in keeping up with theirs. For those corps members who are struggling the hardest, please, find yourself someone who can take care of you when you can’t do it yourself. There are such people and they are probably in your life already. For those of you considering joining the corps, think about who your person (or people) will be and talk with them about your decision to join. Know ahead of time that if it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a whole civilization to educate them.