(Photo: Justin Barbin Photography)
Our relationship did not follow a linear path. My husband and I didn’t meet at Institute, start dating, teach in the same city, fall in love, move-in together, and finally make the big leap. Instead, after scarcely speaking for two and a half years, we met eyes again at the TFA 20th Anniversary Summit in Washington, D.C. where he said, “I think we could have a wonderful life together.” A few months later we started dating long-distance and said we would marry each other tomorrow if it weren’t such an insane idea.
We made it official a year later.
Yep, I married my Institute crush.
It was all very romantic. I think that somehow, cosmically, we were meant to be at the same school at Institute, we were meant to be in the same CMA group, and it was fate that kept us apart for years without much of a clue as to what the other one was doing. (Although the ease of Facebook stalking helped.)
When we were finally able to be together, we shared the memory of soggy Subway sandwiches we ate everyday for lunch. We remembered the handmade slip-n-slide his friend, Kevin, had put out on the lawn of the LMU campus one night. We tried to Google map a satellite view of the hand-painted U.S.A. we had created at our Institute site, 109th Street Elementary School in the Watts District of Los Angeles. We remembered TFA Day (um, the best day ever) when we were told to go to the beach instead of class during the afternoon. He and I are both from the Midwest, and we laughed when we recalled how everyone freaked out during the earthquake and neither of us knew what to do.
My husband and I live on the beach, less than a mile from the Loyola Marymount Campus in Los Angeles where our Institute was held (I think it was also fate that kept Chicago CMs in L.A. that year.). When we drive by that wild Mexican bar everyone used to go to or glance at where the buses picked us up each morning, we smile and remember fondly the time when we had no clue what we were doing and had no clue that one day we’d live minutes from this very place, together.
The point here is not that you will marry that “hot CM from Vegas” you admired from afar. But the relationships you make in these years and how you value these relationships may just change the course of your life.
At Teach For America it’s all about the kids, and rightfully so. But one of the best secrets of TFA is that upon joining, you will inherit a wealth of new people — new acquaintances, new co-workers, and new friends. You will work to build relationships with your students, their families, your own school staff, your fellow CMs, alumni, your regional staff, and maybe even your future husband/wife/best friend. You find ways to “get through” that first year. And hopefully, you find a way to have memorable experiences while doing it. At the end of it all, whether you stay in education or move into a different field, you will keep running into these people, even if it’s just on Facebook. (Side note: have you seen that you can now tell FB when you’re expecting a baby? How far is too far?!)
If you are a first year corps member, 8 months ago none of this existed. Maybe you were finishing your senior year of college or ready to make a career change. And now, you have an entirely different group of people with whom you will always have a shared experience. Yes, many of these relationships will fade as you move to different cities and pursue different paths. And maybe you don’t feel as much of a connection to your region as you’d like to. But as bewildering as Teach for America can be, very rarely in your life will you have as strong a network as you do in this movement of brilliant, passionate, brand-new educators.