I am no longer a 1st grade teacher.
It's a weird thing to grasp. I still have summer school to teach, but that will be an overall much different working situation. I don't think I'll fully grasp this fact of life until I either have a new job or school starts... and I don't.
These are my thoughts:
I have poured myself, my life, and my time into teaching for the past two years. In many ways, I lost touch with who I used to be... more like who I really am. In reality, teaching became my identity. And all of sudden, it no longer is. I feel similar to when I decided to quit music. An emptiness of sorts - this void of "what I do". I am grateful, however, to fill that void with people and things that I love, and a job that ...better suits me. I will always be affected and moved by this experience, but I am happy to say that I am ready to move on.
I can say that I grew to be a good teacher. My potential as a teacher, however, was not met. I know that the teacher I could have been or could be has not been actualized. This is a point of discomfort... but I know that I would never get to be that teacher at my current school. Maybe I will one day return to teaching, to be that teacher.
3. The problem exceeds my expectations.
At the start of this experience, I was largely unaware of the achievement gap in our public school system. Over time I have realized that it is also a social gap and experiential gap and opportunity gap... etc. I have realized that the system is often at fault. I have realized that community and family situations play as large a role as teachers or schools. I have realized that my work for the past two years is rather insignificant considering the work at hand. TFA's motto is "One day, all children will have the opportunity to attain an excellent education." I believe in the importance of this more now than ever, but I also worry about the realization of this statement more now than ever. How will I continue to work for this in my future endeavors?
4. Did you do what you came here to do?
This is the question TFA asks at the final meetings of the corps experience. I have an unsettling answer: I don't know. Yes, my kids made incredible growth and are over-prepared for 2nd grade... but the questions "Is it enough?" and "What more could I have done?" always take away from the ability to answer "Yes".
5. What are the best parts?
In my exit interviews, I was asked about the best and worst parts of the job. The best parts were easy:
1. My coworkers.
2. The kids.
3. The actual act of teaching/seeing results.
I am glad that I have dedicated two years of my life to this. This experience has opened my outlook of the world in so many different ways. I have found success where I started with such deep uncertainty. I have grown to love a group of wonderful children. I have been blessed with colleagues and friends who I love and respect and have learned a great deal from. This experience has changed me, and I am grateful for that.
Onward and upward...