A disclaimer: this is probably most applicable to those of you who plan to leave the classroom next year. For the many, many of you who plan to stay: thank you. You’re stronger than I was.
At the end of my last day of teaching, I walked out of my school’s doors, hopped in my car, and drove 700 miles away. I was starting my life over. I wanted to go back to being a normal person with a normal job. I wanted to call up Lacuna Inc, plug into their machine, and forget the past two years of my life Eternal-Sunshine-of-the-Spotless-Mind-style.
It didn’t work. I quickly realized I couldn’t forget the two years I spent in room 314 with eighty-one incredible ten-year-olds on the north side of Newark. Not as long as my kids and millions of kids like them were struggling against a stacked deck. I was going to be fighting for my kids for the rest of my life.
I called this “the Curse of TFA.” I was less than thrilled that my two year commitment had turned into a lifetime one. I resented TFA for robbing me of my normal life.
Yet, like Jim Carey’s character in Eternal Sunshine, I eventually realized I didn’t really want to forget. I realized that having a normal life would mean forgetting the incredible relief of sitting down for the first time at the end of a long day of teaching. It’d mean forgetting the combination of deep gratitude and outrage that comes from working every day with children whose basic needs were not being met. It’d mean forgetting the joy of Diandra’s smile when she made a new connection. It’d mean giving up this mission I’ve been given. The Curse had turned out to be a gift.
So here’s my advice: don’t fight the Curse of TFA; embrace it. Here’s how: