In early spring, I pledged a two-year commitment to Teach For America, a movement that fights to close the opportunity/achievement gap in low-income communities across the nation.
Becoming a teacher has always been a goal of mine. Some of the most influential people in my life have been teachers. The people who taught me in high school and college served as advocates and allies during a critical season of my life. It’s no wonder I wanted to join their ranks. I’ll be teaching elementary at Satchel Paige in the fall.
To say that teaching is a thankless and difficult profession would be a serious understatement. Some have asked why I would put myself through the rigor and trial-by-fire that is educating in low-income schools.
Simply put: because it’s work worth doing.
This is not a knock on any of my previous jobs. Quite the opposite. Every job I’ve held in the past built upon prior knowledge and helped me develop a skill set that is perfect for teaching. When I realized that TFA was an option for me, my focus became laser-like. I began to reverse-engineer and take the steps that would make me a great candidate for the TFA organization. Even the jobs I disliked illustrated a sort of ‘divine discontent’ to motivate me to seek work that suited my views and strengths better.
This is chance to attack the inequity that is systemic in America, to kick open doors of opportunity for students that will not walk through them otherwise. If I’m to leave a mark on the world, this is the first scratch I’ll make. Every child has value.
This next season of life will be challenging to say the least. Heck, even this last season was tough. I just completed five consecutive weeks of training in Tulsa, Oklahoma (teaching summer school and packing my brain full of strategies I’ll use heavily in the fall).
Luckily, I have a support system of friends, family and mentors that will be in my corner, cheering me on. My church community, my girlfriend and my new collaborators from TFA all champion this path I’m on. I feel sturdier than I have in the past. Some of the most vocal members of ‘Team Garrett’ are former — you guessed it — teachers.
I’m doing this because I can. Or maybe I can’t. Either way, I plan to reach my full potential as a communicator and as a encourager. I want my students to reach their potentials as citizens and innovators. Who knows whether the ‘problem child’ in my classroom might go on to invent new energy sources or cure diseases or colonize the moon.
Speaking of the moon, this excerpt from JFK’s speech on September 12, 1962 puts it well:
“We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.”