When Teach for America speakers came up during our professional development days meant to inspire us with their uplifting stories, I would denounce what they said. I rejected the Teach for America jargon and ignored the success stories. We used to call it “drinking the kool-aid” (or still do) when someone had fallen under the Teach for America spell; they had joined the cult. One success story after another started to feel like brainwash; especially when you went to work day after day without one redeeming moment, feeling like an utter and complete failure.
But on my trip to Israel, in actually talking to so many of these people, I realized I had it all wrong. It wasn’t that they hadn’t failed too- even the speakers, preaching about their “2 years growth” and their “turned- around classroom” and bla bla bla. Nobody talked about the failure because who would want to? What I realized was that everybody had a different way of reaching that high point that we heard about during their speeches. But everyone struggled in their own way and found their way back. And I became okay hearing the success stories once I knew that they had failed too.
It’s not to say that the struggle actually ever stops, because I feel like the honeymoon is over this year. It felt so refreshed at first, so hopeful, so different. And yes, it is still a million times better than last year was, but that wouldn’t be hard. I feel defeated; I feel exhausted; and I feel like giving up- just like last year. But unlike last year, I know that it will pass, and I will make it, and that at some point sometime in the future I may have a redeeming day.
On the last night in Israel we all made a vow of one thing we wanted to commit to doing upon returning. I made a silent vow to never lose faith and hope in what I was doing, and I got myself a ring to remind myself of that vow. In Israel, there were three themes we explored: leadership, values, and inequity. True to TFA, we did a lot of reflecting. And through my reflection on leadership, I discovered that the one tie among all leaders was an unwavering faith in their vision. Martin Luther King, Jr. and David Ben Gurion absolutely believed that their vision should be true. But so did the TFA corps member who spoke about her 2 years growth, who absolutely believed that she could be the pioneer of her students’ education, and she would be, because she had to be. So even during weeks when I am sick and feel defeated and frustrated, I look down at my ring, and I think about the vow that I made to myself. The vow that I would not lose faith in what I was working towards, that I would not lose hope in the possibility of it, and above all that I would not lose faith in myself and what I was capable of.
I guess I’m drinking the kool-aid now.