Teach Houston

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Jan 13 2013

giving up control

The past three months since I got my TFA acceptance have essentially been one long exercise in relinquishing control. It’s ironic, really, especially considering TFA takes such great pains to recruit and select applicants who have been so purposeful/intentional about their respective life paths. I will unabashedly admit I am awful at giving up control, whether it’s when working on group projects, co-coordinating campuswide organizations, or even going on trips with other people. I know it’s something that will probably come back to bite me later and I’ve definitely gotten better at delegation over the years, but still. It’s tough.

I look at where I am now, and just think about all the unknowns:

1. I don’t know what grade I will teach.
2. I don’t know which subject I will teach.
3. I don’t know whether I will teach at a charter or non-charter school.
4. I don’t know which school I will teach at.
5. I don’t know where I’ll live.
6. I don’t know who I’ll live with or how many people I will live with.
7. I don’t know who my friends will be, how I’ll spend my weekends, or whether I will be lonely.
8. I don’t know if I will ever have free time or if I will be able to maintain the non-teacher parts of myself.

I know these things will work themselves out; granted, the “working-out” process will likely take place on vastly different timetables.

One of the most unnerving aspects of the entire socialization-into-TFA-and-new-teacher-identity process is what TFA calls “placement.” Placement is the process by which TFA works with local charter and non-charter school districts to match new TFA corps members with open positions in these districts. It seems like an incredibly opaque process. I have no idea what goes into it. Given only a series of somewhat-cryptic emails, I am latched to the process of just continually checking my email and hoping more info will come trickling in each week.

Perhaps I am an outlier – perhaps I shouldn’t have spent so much time thinking about TFA or building up my expectations, because it just makes me more nervous to imagine a scenario in which my ideal expectations don’t work out. But it’s hard not to think about the future. It’s hard not to spin scenarios in your head, hard not to imagine your weekends a year from now, hard not to be able to plan where you will exercise or go to synagogue or meet up with friends after the workweek.

I want so badly to know things I may not find out for weeks or months, so in the meantime, I wait.

3 Responses

  1. Katherine

    I just read this post and couldn’t help but smile because of how much I see myself in this. I want to let you know the following things.
    A) The placement process with only get less transparent and more frustrating.
    B) It will work out and the last people to get placed sometimes end up in the best situations (aka me.)
    C) This is an important exercise in coping with a loss of control.
    When I started TFA, I constantly complained about the lack of control I was given over my future. Today, the idea of having control over anything besides myself seems laughable. As a teacher, you will be faced with a million things you cant control (students’ moods, students’ past teachers, students’ families, peers, resources, logistics, support–or lack of support–time, etc). The only thing you can control is how prepared you are and how you react to it. I would recommend taking this time to sit back and relax. There are hundreds of type-A TFA staff members trying their best to figure it out for you, and the calmer you are going into year one, the better your life (and your blood pressure) will be.

  2. gmason

    I can totally relate! I’d LOVE to know what school I am going to be working at so I can start apartment hunting, what grade I’ll be teaching so I can start lesson planning, etc, etc. Glad to know I’m not the only one going stir-crazy!

  3. Jessica Dirks (TFA-Houston, DSP)

    Thanks for your honest post and the feedback about what is most concerning you about the transition.

    While we’re happy to share as much as we can about the placement process, the reality is that it can sometimes be – as you correctly describe – a little opaque. Our intention is not to be mysterious or unclear; it’s just that so much about placement depends on our placement partners’ needs (needs that are constantly evolving as teachers retire and resign and as budgets are set) and the success individual corps members have with interviews, that it’s hard to predict exactly where any given corps member will end up teaching. We’re of the opinion that it would be *more* unfair to promise you that you’ll be teaching, say, third grade at a charter school when reality might dictate that no third grade charter positions become available this year.

    So, we encourage you to be flexible (that’s hard to do, we know!), to reach out to us at HOUConnect@teachforamerica.org or during our phone office hours with questions or concerns, and to practice getting comfortable with, as you put it, “giving up control.” Perhaps the silver lining is that the more you master these skills – flexibility, asking for help, and letting go – now, the more prepared you’ll be to succeed in your own classroom in a few months.

    Thanks again for your comments and don’t hesitate to reach out if we can help!

Post a comment

About this Blog

Journeys, challenges, & writings of a first-year teacher.

Middle School

Subscribe to this blog (feed)