With that said, I don't know exactly how often I'll be working on this or how well readers will respond to it -- the former likely has much to do with the latter. There has been, however, much recent discussion and controversy over the Teach For America program, so I do want an opportunity to get my own experience (and views on this program, both positive and negative) out there in the midst of it. I realize that much of what I have to say will be colored by my experiences and prior worldviews, and that I do not speak for every corps member out there, but I am going to at least shoot for a chance to offer up my perspectives.
In 2013, the year I began my two-year stint with Teach For America, former corps member Olivia Blanchard released a short piece entitled I Quit Teach For America, and it created waves within the TFA community. I remember so many of my corps member friends and leaders speaking out about how disappointed they were in Blanchard's story, and sharing Tre Tennyson (who happened to work right alongside Olivia Blanchard)'s own retort, Remember the 'I Quit Teach For America' Essay? Here's the Counterpoint. I Stayed. Both accounts detailed the infamously difficult lives that TFA corps members can lead, but explained the differences in perception and the final paths each of these individuals took. Most of what I remember about the release of these pieces, though, has to do with the responses that came from TFA itself -- why, for example, Tennyson's story was admired, while Blanchard's was criticized (there were others who didn't take these stances, but they were by far the most prevalent).
I'm not here to say what is "right" or "wrong" about either perspective or choice. I, like Tennyson, stayed in Teach For America ... but, like Blanchard, I have much to say about the actual experience, and its impact on both the adults who enter the program and the students they try to serve. My purpose here isn't to blast Teach For America, nor to praise it. My desire is to provide a detailed, poignant, and hopefully illuminating look not only into my own life, but what it's like to work with this prestigious organization (or, as some see it, formerly prestigious organization) in one of America's most difficult districts to teach in. I want to provide a behind-the-scenes look at our nation's fractured education system, what really goes on in schools and classrooms, and what it's like to be teacher in this day and age, when you're rarely viewed or treated as a professional. I want to be honest, open, and personal. I want to add to this conversation.
Because the book I was going to write about this was going to be a memoir, I'm going to stick to that format while writing this blog. Each new post will serve as a chapter in my memoir, and perhaps when I'm done I will have been able to offer a piece of productive discourse.