Last week I began my long awaited journey as a 2013 Teach for America Corp member in Southwest Ohio (SWO). Fellow corps members from all over the state, country, and even world convened in Cincinnati for a weeklong induction. The week served as an introduction into the region where we will be working for the next two years, as well as time for us to get to know each other and the motivation behind our reasons for wanting to join TFA.
We spent the week focusing on two major themes: heart and getting started. Heart: Who are the people we are working with, what are we trying to accomplish, and why does this work matter to us and to others? Over the course of five days we dove head first into the history of Cincinnati, Dayton, and Covington, discovering the people that make up these great cities and the unique challenges associated with each of them. The experiences ranged from visiting the Freedom Center to learn about the racial inequalities that have plagued Cincinnati for many years, as well as eating dinner in the home of a single-parent mother and hearing from her first hand what is important to her as a parent in Covington, KY. We also visited high-performing charter schools such as the Dayton Early College Academy (DECA), hearing from their leaders, students, and teachers that the stale status quo of under achievement in a city can be just that and that there are ways to reach above and beyond that. We also spent the week pushing ourselves to look deep inside our own hearts to figure out where we lead from and why we are committing to possibly two of the hardest years of our lives.
In addition to focusing on the heart we also spent some time getting started in the region. The biggest task associated with this was interviewing with individual schools and leaders to determine where we will spend the next two years. So last Friday we spent the better part of the day partaking in short interviews with principals from the region who have agreed to partner with TFA. The day was stressful and very different from a traditional interview situation, but it was also very exciting because it was the first time in this journey so far that we actually got to meet with principals and talk with them about the kids we would soon be teaching.
The first week in my TFA journey was full of emotions ranging from excitement to scared, anxious, and proud. I am excited and proud at the extremely smart and passionate people I get to call my fellow corps for the next two years. I am scared at the fact that this is a completely new adventure for me and that my success is crucial to the future of the kids in SWO, and finally I am anxious to finally be able to start this amazing and challenge journey to the classroom. Finally, proud at the fact that I get to work in SWO – a place where I was born and have the privilege of calling home.
As I write this I am on the way to Atlanta where I will spend the next five weeks at summer institute immersing myself in intense training with everything from lesson planning clinics to teaching 5th grade summer school. While I am not exactly certain what the next five weeks have in store I do know without a doubt that there is no place I would rather be. I am looking forward to learning the skills and techniques that I will need to become the most effective teacher I can become. The kids of Southwest Ohio deserve it and are counting on me to give them nothing less. These coming weeks and months are going to push me farther than I have ever been pushed, but remembering that I am not here to just be a teacher but rather a transformational leader that is helping to fuel a movement and disrupt the status quo will remind me why this work is absolutely necessary.