Not counting today, I have 4 days until I officially arrive in the Land of Enchantment. Which is at once super exciting and really overwhelming. I finally got my behind in gear yesterday and packed up a lot of stuff (well, I threw away a lot of stuff while vowing never to let my pack-rattiness get this out of control again). And then…I spent most of today at the beach. Oops. Now I’m left with a dorm room looking like a tornado went through a UPS store. But it’ll work out, I’m sure.
I’m not sure why, but my rose-colored glasses just won’t fall off. I’m a pretty realistic person by nature, and, realistically speaking, I know that this whole experience is going to be incredibly hard. I’ve read the criticisms of TFA: their teachers are under-prepared, given less than 20 hours of summer school to teach and then thrown in a classroom; they don’t always support these teachers, causing some of them to quit during Institute or their first year; they unrealistically quote misrepresenting statistics, claiming to close the achievement gap while ignoring the plausibility of teachers developing the skills to do that in just two years. I’ve heard (and seen) the difficulties facing the most underperforming schools, schools like Robeson High, where I used to teach Health classes, and where 40% of freshmen graduated, 1 in 8 teenage girls had a baby, and the 4 gang lines within a quarter mile of the school necessitated black and white uniforms because all the other colors were taken. If you gave me an infinite amount of time and money, I wouldn’t know where to start fixing Robeson, and TFA hopes to do it as a non-profit with idealistic college grads turning over every two years?
But as one of those idealistic soon-to-be college grads, I’m unwaveringly, unrelentingly, and perhaps even unrealistically hopeful. I’m planning classroom routines, imagining hypothetical fourth graders who will learn to love to read. I’m wondering what my school will look like, or whether I’ll coach a sports team. Like a little kid just starting school, I can’t help but be excited for what’s ahead. At the same time, I’m remembering the end-of-the year Health assessment at Robeson High and two teams of 9th graders playing Health trivia. They were disadvantaged kids in a terribly disadvantaged school, with some idealistic college kids as Health teachers and everything against them. Hands waved in the air, answers were discussed excitedly, points were added and disputed with feeling. They got every question right.
So maybe I’m naive, and maybe I’m too hopeful, but I think that’s where I’m supposed to be right now.