A Journey to the Unexpected

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Sep 10 2012

Living in the now.

It’s one of the “Uncommon Schools” positive reinforcement practices. From my limited observations, it mostly seems like an Uncommon practice.

I’d like to think that my main audience is other teachers, though I’m fully aware that it’s mostly curious and supportive friends and family (thanks guys), but this post I actually intend for “almost” or “just barely begun” teachers. We spend all day living in the now–our classroom dominates our lives. The little bit of “now” we have in our days that is not in the classroom, we spend prepping for the next day, week, unit, etc. But as a 2nd year CM, there’s also that looming question–Next Year. And lets be honest–it’s not just because I’m a 2nd year. That’s the easiest topic of conversation at this particular stage of life, and at least in the places I’ve been, it always has been. What’s next, what’s the plan, where is this taking you? Fair questions, for us. But what about our kids?

This is the main bone I have to pick with TFA. I know it’s probably because I’m in Appalachia, where roots go down decades, if not centuries, and I’m one of the few to identify with those who don’t have any. The idea that I’m only in for a few years… distasteful enough to everyone. But it raises another question. There’s no doubt that TFA is a resume boost. There’s no doubt in my mind that that’s nowhere near the top of the list of reasons why people do it. Still, it’s there. It keeps people going when they want to quit, and those little words that I’ve heard all my life have a way of sneaking into conversations on bad days–”But just think how this is preparing you for whatever comes next!”

For B., what comes next for me doesn’t change the fact that he studied hard and still failed his quiz yesterday. For S., what comes next for me isn’t connected to her chances of a college scholarship. A’s parents work with her every evening and all day Saturday–flashbacks of Asia for me–to make sure she’s at the top of her class. She’s in sixth grade–she hit the benchmark for college and career readiness last week. The other teachers and parents are fully aware that today’s reality will determine tomorrow’s possibilities, so they never lose sight of “what they’re preparing for.” But it’s for their kids lives, not my career. I would never accuse a CM for being selfish as they think about what they do “next.” I just want them to be able to stop and pat themselves on their back for what they’ve got now.

I’ll leave it here, oh fellow teachers, college students, etc, with this question: What if this IS what’s next? What if this is what you were being prepared for all along? No doubt everything is preparing us for something else, and we are influenced by everything that’s been. But what if, just what if, we lived today as if it was the most important day we were ever going to have?

“Somebody needs you. On your worst day you are still some child’s best hope.” –Larry Bell

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