I had the opportunity to see Wendy Kopp speak at Vanderbilt tonight. I typically do not do much on weeknights, but I am really glad that I made the choice to go. Hearing Kopp speak really helped to reaffirm my choice to join TFA and to find my role in the larger education movement.
I have spent much of this year feeling incredibly frustrated. As someone who typically does well in her endeavors, it was/ is increasingly frustrating to put ALL of my time and effort into something and STILL only see mediocre results. My anxiety and feelings of not being good enough have been heightened by seeing and hearing things my TFA colleagues are doing in their classrooms. I, and I know many of my fellow CMs, feel a lot of pressure to be extraordinary teachers. We are pushed to be the best. We are pushed to do whatever it takes for our students. This is a great thing and a huge personal burden. Over the past six months I have been overcome with the feeling that I am not good enough--that I do not have what it takes.
Tonight Kopp acknowledged something so realistic (and probably common sense to most of the non 1st year CMs in the audience) that has even in a few short hours helped reaffirm my choice to be a classroom teacher. Kopp told the audience that she knows that not everyone will be a teaching super star. She told us that yes, we need superstars, but we also need just as many talented and committed people to the cause. Her belief is that if we can put extraordinary leaders into a position in which they have access to teams of committed and talented teachers/administrators we can begin to make systemic change. This is a belief I support. It is also a comfort. While I am going to keep striving to be great at my profession, I felt a release in the pressure to be great. I know I am committed. I know that I am a capable teacher. I believe that my capability will refine a talent for teaching.
Kopp also said something in the Q & A session that resonated with me. She talked about the 2 year TFA commitment and the goal that TFA alumni find their niche in the larger education movement. She spoke of how alumni take their TFA experience and make a critical decision about what is best for them in the movement and their personal lives. This is an experience that without a doubt changes you. I cannot imaging anyone coming out of this program affected in some way.
Up until recently, I had not really considered my role as an alumni of the program. I intended to stay a classroom teacher for at least 5-10 years after my commitment. As of lately I am not so sure. I plan to teach for at least 4 years, but I have already started to think of other roles that I might be able to play in the education movement. For me it is almost like the difference between my experience as a Peer Leader vs. a Peer Leader Captain. I enjoyed being a PL and was a decent PL, but I was far from extraordinary. I was a much better PLC than PL. As a PLC I had more of an opportunity to effect programming, curriculum and resources in our program. I feel similarly about being a classroom teacher. I really enjoy the planning aspect of teaching. I like creating and modifying resources (as my Pintrist and blog clearly illustrate) and I feel like I have been a valuable asset to my grade-level team. I also feel really connected to higher education and have a lot of ideas on how to enhance teacher education programs. These are areas that I want to pursue. It is a long way off, but never too early to start thinking about!