I graduated from Teach For America eleven days ago. It was a lovely ceremony; I invited a few of my closest school friends (my Houston family) and we all raised our glasses of sparkling apple juice to two years of deeply meaningful work. At the end I took pictures with flowers and certificates and that was it. It was over. I walked out and drove up and down the Houston highways and tried to process the end of something that has meant so much to me. The sparkling stars twinkled almost mockingly as I drove and drove and drove.
In many ways, very little will change next year. I’m returning to my placement school, continuing to teach 8th grade English (plus I’m picking up a class of Reading Intervention), even teaching in the same room. I’ll have the same primary evaluator and the same administrative team and most of my favorite teachers are staying, too.
But in other ways everything will change. In some ways it already has. I’m sad to lose yet another community. I feel like I’ve already lost so many this year. I feel as though my group of friends has sort of fragmented and splintered, with all of us moving along our respective paths to “adulthood,” no longer bound together by what used to keep us so close. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. I know it’s part of growing up. But it’s still hard.
I’ll lose my MTLD, too. She’s become such a mentor – almost a mother figure – to me. I made it to the final stage of a national teaching award (still waiting to hear back on the ultimate decision) and she’s been with me every step of the way. Editing videos, suggesting essay ideas, pushing me in her own loving and gentle way. SO much of who I am is because of her. I am indebted.
I’m moving in with a non-TFA roommate next year. It’s time for stronger work-life boundaries. I’m excited for a change but sad, too, because it kind of marks the end of an era. We were a little power duo in apartment 418 and that, too, is coming to an end.
These past few months I’ve been in a bit of a rut. It actually has nothing to do with teaching and everything to do with my non-teaching life. I am grateful for a job I love so much because it’s kept me grounded through this season of struggle. I think part of it is the normal struggle to transition from college student to “real adult” – managing finances, career, friendships, relationships, and all the accompanying responsibilities that encompass growing up. There’s another, part, too, a more sinister and ugly and dark part. But I continue to have faith that a dawn will come when it is meant to.
In the meantime, I’m finishing out this last week-and-a-half of school with a bang. In the next four days my students will take a final exam, write a final essay, participate in a university study on non-cognitive character habits, write letters to their high school selves, and hear my last lecture. The last lecture is a tradition (I did it last year, too) in which I put aside all objectives and alignment and unit plans and teach the five things that mean the most to me. Last year, my final slide read:
There is nothing in life more important than people. People can fulfill your life in all the ways that work, money, and possessions can’t. Building a life around people you love is the greatest thing you can achieve.
And that is the most apt summary of my TFA experience I could ever give. These two years have given me people I love fiercely, people who mean the world to me, and for that…I am deeply grateful.