Let me count the ways.
1. By the third day of induction, 100% of DFW corps members were placed. No other TFA region could boast such a record so early. And while I may be mistaken, I don’t think our fellow regions at institute have met that goal to this day (Houston, San Antonio, Rio Grande Valley, and Eastern North Carolina).
For a 2012 DFW corps 190 and strong, I think that’s a great feat. I think it speaks volumes to the hard work our staff puts in for us and how much DFW is embracing our corps members. We are the fastest growing region after all…!
So why does this matter? Frankly, because it eases so much stress! You can look for apartments and roommates without worrying if you’re taking a gamble. You can also start studying for and take your certification exam. This is key because if you fail the TExES, you have to wait SIXTY days before you can retake the exam. It cuts close to the start of school and again, who wants that stress? Not me! I happily passed mine and now I get to focus on how to be a transformational and effective teacher. Not where I’ll be living, what I’ll be making, or who I will be living with in who-knows where. But most of all, if you’ve already been placed institute staff will strive to give you a teaching position over the summer in same grade level or subject giving you a good grasp of what teaching will be like during the school year. That has been the biggest highlight for me. I have loved teaching third grade and I cannot wait until I have my own group of students this year.
2. The TFA-DFW staff knows how to train you. By day four of induction, a lot of us were reciting our regional corps values in our sleep (and not by choice either). Relentless! Creators! Flexible! United! And while we recognized that these values were important, we did not truly know their true significance until we arrived in Houston. Boy were we surprised! Every day of teaching requires us to live by those four values and everyone I have talked to is so thankful to the staff for drilling it to us. We knew what to expect so when we were surprised, we did not fumble. We just accepted the changes and moved straight on to creating solutions.
For example, my roommate was just told yesterday that because someone quit TFA mid-institute, she has to join a completely new collaborative group and teach alongside new teachers in a new classroom starting today. Did she get upset? No. She sucked it up. As she explained to me, she has to be flexible and relentless. The more time spent wallowing in frustration and stress is less time thinking about what to do that will be the best for your kids. So true.
3. They created a strong culture that is evident to us and everyone else. Now I might be speaking too soon but I have never felt like I belonged somewhere so much than I do with my corps region. We’ve shared so much with each other in twenty days that I’m so happy my life has brought me here. I truly feel blessed. Teaching will undoubtedly be hard. I will undoubtedly get frustrated. But at the end of the day, I know I have staff, corps members, and alumni alongside me who will be there for me. Likewise, I will be there for them. In fact, the DFW staff is coming tonight and we are all excited to get back together! After all, ducks fly together. (Inside joke. Join the region to get in on it.)
5. Case in point: my birthday. I have to admit, I was pretty disappointed when I found out I would be at institute to celebrate the big ##. Not because I would be working but because I didn’t know anyone. Yeah, I met people informally over Facebook but they didn’t know me. I honestly figured I would spend my birthday alone awkwardly trying to put something together for myself.
Again, I was completely wrong. So many people in my region went out of their way to wish me a happy birthday. Whether it was in person, on Facebook, or over text, they remembered! And three friends who I didn’t even know a month ago decorated my door, got me a birthday gift, got me a card believing in my crazy wish of being a rapper, got me another card signed by our corps, and if that wasn’t enough — they had a mariachi band serenade me at dinner and took me out for a great time afterwards. I was on the verge of tears by the end of the night. I have never had anyone do so much for me. Less alone people who haven’t even known me for a month. How did I get so lucky?
6. The achievement gap is real in Texas. I realized two days into teaching that our ten ELL students had no idea what college meant. They had heard of the word before and recognized it as a positive but they did not know what it took to get there. By day two, they recognized that they needed good behavior and good grades. Yet, they weren’t actively striving to be on a “trail” to college. It felt so abstract to them. But last Thursday, we spent our academic intervention hour talking to them about our respective colleges and showing them videos and pictures. You should have seen the look on their faces. They were STUNNED that they could go there! Even our biggest trouble maker, Alfred*, did a complete 180′. And now that we’ve completely transformed our behavior management plan and presented it to them today, they are ON TOP of their stuff!! I can’t wait to teach them in a bit.
7. But most of all, even if you don’t join us in DFW or TFA, fight for a student’s opportunity to access a quality education.
As Laura* reminded us today, it doesn’t really matter where you go. “The important thing is to learn.” Get it girl.
* Names have been changed.