Year 2 is done. I’m “done” with TFA.
It’s kind of a weird combination of things. On the one hand, the majority of my fellow 2011 CMs are leaving, and I am so sad to see them go. There are facebook statuses full of poignant lessons learned and updates on next steps and new jobs. Most people seem to be staying in education of some variety, though it runs the gamut from being a classroom teacher in Denver to teaching English overseas to going back to school for principal leadership training. As a whole corps we have two formal get-together party events a year, usually at the King Dragon Chinese food buffet in town (which, incidentally, is a Gallup experience), and at our end of year gala two 2011 teachers put together a slideshow of all the CMs finishing their second year. Every teacher had quotes from fellow teachers, principals, or families saying nice things about them. Watching that slideshow, I was struck by what an amazing group of people I’ve gotten to know. These 50 or so people all left lives in other parts of the country to come here to rural New Mexico, to work their behinds off, to plan and laugh and cry and have meltdowns and work so freaking hard for kids. Even if most people are not staying, even if we are not making a large-scale impact here (which is a question for another day), even if our impact is only on the individual lives of the 3,000 students who had a better year of school because of all that effort…that’s something.
At the same time, it’s weird for me to be “done” with TFA because I’m not leaving. The phrase that gets thrown around is that after two years we have “finished our commitment.” But here’s the thing. Yes, I made a commitment to be here for two years teaching, but it wasn’t like I was forced to do any of the things I’ve been doing here. I chose to go to professional development events, I chose to track my students’ progress, I chose to meet with other teachers, to collaborate and bounce ideas off each other. All the things I did as part of my “commitment” were choices I made because they were good in the long run for my students, and it’s not like that will change next year as someone not officially connected with TFA. I guess what I’m saying is I always felt like my commitment was to my kids and my families, and that part isn’t going anywhere.
I have gotten a lot of questions from parents and kids about whether I’m staying next year, and it’s really great to be able to say yes, I will be here. I’ve also gotten quite a few questions about why I’m staying. Now some of these are from teenagers who can’t imagine anyone actually wanting to be in their tiny, dusty town. But some are from parents, who seem torn between being genuinely curious about why I’m here and seeking reassurance that I WANT to be here, and it’s not something I got stuck with. I do want to be here. I love the people, I love my friends, I love my students. I love feeling like I make a difference for kids, even if it’s not for every kid. I know it’s going to break my heart when I finally leave, and the truth is that I will leave, because I simply cannot do all the things I have planned to do from here. But for right now I’m glad to be here another year.