Yesterday was my last professional Saturday with Teach for America. An approximately 3 hour drive to Cleveland, MS, a panel discussion, a vision-setting session, an Arkansas-specific session, then I picked up my overly large certificate of completion, and that was that. Soon, I will have my 5 year teaching license and join the ranks of more than 20,000 alumni.
I guess after two years, I wanted some sort of final closure, like a graduation ceremony. However, the point of Teach for America isn't exactly to provide some sort of definitive closure or answer. In my experiences and current understanding, the problems in poor communities and in failing/struggling school districts are ever present, very complicated, and ultimately something to be fought against, not necessarily permanently fixed.
I'm caught up in a lot of emotion about my TFA experience. I feel like I've grown up a lot, establishing something of a more settled set of core beliefs and needs than I left college with. But I also feel like a failure personally and professionally on many fronts; did I consistently raise kids self-confidence, skills, and test scores? I did the best I could always, but that wasn't always enough. Did I do like my fellow 6th grade teacher advise and "drive my own happy train?" Not consistently and not enough. Am I satisfied with the currently political-educational climate, my kids current lot in life, education in general? Absolutely not, but these aren't the only issues I'm frustrated with.
Going forward, I'm understandably terrified. I'm job hunting. As cheesy as it sounds, my passion remains with teaching Arkansas kids; it's frustrating that charter schools in other states are so much more interested in me as a teacher than local school districts. I'm not sure where I will be living or for how long post-June. I need to get my kids ready for one more unit test, a science fair, and a field trip to Little Rock. I have an End of Year conversation with my TFA manager.
Here's to the next step: figuring out alumni status.