when i first made my decision not to return to the classroom for year 2, i felt the need to defend myself; although i decided to leave for a variety of reasons, many of which sprang from the deep depression within which i found myself for most of last year, i was not doing so because i no longer cared about the mission of teach for america. quite the contrary. the sentence i found myself repeating most whenever i defended myself was “i’m not leaving to sell makeup or something.” i certainly could have communicated more eloquently and effectively, but the simple meaning was, “hey, i’m still IN this thing. just not in the same way.”
i’ll be honest: i don’t regret my decision to leave the corps, but that doesn’t mean i don’t miss my kids viscerally. i’ll have dreams about them fairly frequently — most set in my old classroom — and i wake up feeling like i punched myself in the heart. i mean no offense or insensitivity whatsoever by this analogy, but i sometimes think of this situation as an open adoption of sorts. i gave my students up to someone else, but i still love them like hell, and am so grateful that i can still be a part of their lives. i’ve talked to several of them on the phone since moving back to texas, and will SEE THEIR BEAUTIFUL FACES exactly one week from tomorrow. (i will also see their beautiful faces during their first week back to school in january. i’ve booked these flights in such a way that i KNOW i’ll get to visit school.) of course it’s not the same as being with them every day, striving to instill within them a love of learning, but it’s the best that i can afford to give them, and i wouldn’t give them any less. i feel this way particularly because, so far in their young academic lives, most of their teachers have left after teaching them and never shown up again. i refuse to be another well-meaning adult whose presence is short-lived, whose influence is truncated.
as far as my graduate studies are concerned, i am in love. (it’s tough love some of the time, but what transformational love isn’t?) nine weeks into my first semester, i have already learned so much, and have relished the opportunity to apply empirical findings and other public administration or economic theories to the reality i lived last year — to that which corps members, and all teachers working to close the achievement gap, live every day. i find myself wanting to learn, to research, more and more; in fact, i am leaning heavily towards pursuing a doctoral program in sociology, public policy, or an integrated version of the two as my next step, once i have completed my master’s degree. there is not a doubt in my mind that this movement needs to be approached from as many purposeful, evidence-based angles as possible; the quest for educational equity requires teachers AND scholars, administrators AND lawyers, lobbyists AND parents, and the list goes on. a part of me will always wish i had been better equipped to continue growing as a teacher; maybe one day i will become one again, whether at the university level or otherwise. (in fact, i purchased English and Spanish versions of a book by the author of Esperanza Rising, and started looking for pre-made vocabulary lists online so that the student to whom i want to give the book will be able to access and enjoy it.)
however, for now, i am happy, motivated, determined, and INSPIRED. may we all continue to be so as we work towards the vision of One Day.