So today was the first day of induction. As one of the TFA staff members put it, "the first full day as a Teach For America Corps Member."
Yesterday was a little more overwhelming than I expected. Sometimes it's hard to find connections and relation points with people that are so diverse that you're not sure why you are in the same room. Ultimately, we all in TFA have a similarity which has acted out as a starting point for further connections and that is our commitment to TFA and closing the gap of education inequity.
Today it was more of the same connection forming with more people from even more diverse settings. In the corps we have blacks, whites, asians, indians, and every other race. We have males and females and probably some transgender persons (though I have not met them). These things though are only primary diversity factors. What makes the most sense is to bond with each other over secondary diversity factors that are more personal and not obvious from the first visual analysis of our peers. These characteristics include learning style, humor, ideologies and even things much less important like income. Regardless of my preconceptions, it has been amazing to meet so many unique individuals.
Throughout our sessions today, we focused on Diversity & Inclusiveness and Movements. It was challenging to think about things more closely, to face more realities about the disparities but what the most difficult part about the discussions were the need to face our own personal beliefs and misconceptions that have been guiding our views in (sometimes) the wrong way.
I won't bore y'all (yes, I'm picking up a southern twang and words after one day) so I'd just like to give an example of a couple of exercises and meaningful pieces of discussion today.
What priorities in this fight seem most important for you? How will you hold onto them in the midst of day-to-day pressures?
The biggest priority for me is to believe in the kids, to know that they are excited and ready to learn. We often lost hope, respect and belief in people when we repeatedly see a lack of commitment or respect. But we must know that it is our perseverance in believing in the students and creating stronger community of higher pressures that will ultimately push them further. Ignoring the problem will not solve the problem, it is pursuing a solution and fighting the internalized externalities that will create progress.
In the midst of the time, we will face hard times, but by becoming part of my community, I will be forced to hold myself accountable while so many others look to me to help them.
We ended the day by reading the Legacies of former and current corps members. These aren't legacies that were actually left, but what corps members thought they wanted to leave behind after their first, second or further years. Below is what I believe to be my Legacy Mindset:
"By the end of my first year... I want to see and know there is a an increased commitment to learning from my students. I want to have a classroom structured where students don't need to raise their hands because they are respectful and a classroom where students will help their peers when they understand the material better. A culture breeding respect and kindness combined with commitment will pave the way toward successful academia for my students.
By the end of my second year... I want my students to be excited to come to school and that they are making strides toward college. I want my students to know that they can pursue their dreams by completing their education and to realize that their opportunities will be severely limited if they don't. I'll still leave the decision to them but I want all my students to make the right one to stay in school.
By the time I leave the classroom... I want my students to have a community within the larger community that spreads respect, joy and a love of forward-looking ideas."
Even though it has been a long first day, a lot of the TFA group found enough energy to go out to Pub Trivia to celebrate our new-found friendships that will surely last forever. Now that I'm home, and my team lost the trivia, I have decided it is in the best interests of everyone that I get some rest... I like my (so-far) good reputation with the TFA 2012 Corps.