Title spoken in the perfect words of our school’s 2nd-3rd math coach, and as they came from her mouth my heart grew just a little more.
I feel that Teach For America does such an excellent job of verbally preparing us for what could happen, they instill in us a pessimistic fear of everyone around us being incompetent, ignorant, or intentionally pretend-blind of the travesty that is our public education system.
On Monday, I attended my school’s first Leadership Team meeting. The committee is composed of our principal, chairs of each grade (I’m the chair of sixth), facilitators, and I think a few others. I might know who the “few others” were if even half of the roster showed up to the meeting. As it was, there were two facilitators (of four), two grade chairs (me and the 3rd grade chair– Sarah, who is also a TFA teacher, though I feel a little dirty pointing that out), our principal, an ESL teacher, and a woman I don’t know.
I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I felt a sense of pride and duty just being on the committee. I want things done, and if I am the one willing to do it then let’s go, I’m ready. I hate the idea of taking exclusive responsibility for something like school leadership, because it makes me feel self-righteous and like a long sailor on an endless sea full of drowning people. I do not want to be the one driven stranger that people see and laugh at, or fear, or feel completely alienated from. I do want to be a leader, I do want to be a change-agent in my school, I do want to partner with veterans, community members, people that belong where I teach, that grew up there and live there and will always, always be more ingrained and more a part of that culture than I ever will be, even if I live there for decades.
The meeting was similar to our professional development funeral, in that I again was humbled to see and hear the people that know more than I do actually speak up. I repeatedly learn that my district is teeming with people that feel exactly as I do, just have no forum for expressing it aside from bitter comments in the teacher’s lounge. Here, with just half of our committee members in attendance, we shared common problems, fears, worries, and expectations for campus. I loved it.
This meeting teetered me back over to the, “I want to stay and continue to attempt to be a catalyst in my district” side of my what-to-do-next-year decision. If I could work on a committee like this, be a grade chair, and start to implement and see lasting change in my district, I might stay a year, two years, however many years beyond my commitment.
Aside from huge future-thinking, the meeting also re-grounded me in my excitement for this year. I love finding these opportunities to re-light my excitement for teaching and education in general. I love leadership; I love facilitating meetings; I love getting my sticky fingers all over everything in my way. I want to know what’s going on and improve it if at all possible.
A major lesson I’ve learned from Teach For America, and the past two years in general, is how unnecessary it is to be a lone pillar in a crashing ocean. I am in a cabin with my 6th grade teachers, on a deck with my school, in a ship with my community, in an ocean with millions of other boats of districts across the united states. I do not have to be an aggravating and expected TFA martyr. It makes my chest heavy even to think about.
I feel slightly but cautiously more mature in realizing, knowing, and reminding myself that I am never alone, that so many people have the same realizations as I do at the same time. And the best one I heard this week was our fabulous math facilitator reminding our committee how important our school culture is. We were talking about the biggest issues school-wide, and we all immediately agreed and jumped on school culture. With students as with nature it is true: “If the water is polluted, all the fish will die.”
Let’s get these kids some chlorine, or whatever chemical it is that balances dirty water.