Every summer (or, more accurately, each summer I’ve been associated with TFA) I find myself stepping back from the day-to-day grind of a classroom teacher and start thinking about the education problem on a much broader scale. I think about what it would take to finally close the achievement gap permanently. I think about the major players in this problem, and all of the things stacked against true reform. I think about the long history of discrimination in this country, and how the more things change, the more they stay the same. I think about my own role in this mission.
This line of thinking is dangerous. Whenever I have one of these thought sessions, I always come out of it more cynical and depressed than before. “Changing things?” I think. “We’re not changing anything. This problem will never be solved.”
Of course, one cannot believe that and have this job. Think what you may about the naivete and idealism of TFA corps members, there is something about drinking the TFA kool-aid that keeps you going in the face of this reality. It’s pretty easy to start believing that we actually are doing something when you hear success story after success story at a TFA conference. I’m able to jump on board with TFA’s mission when I see 200+ 2009 Bay Area corps members walk into a hotel ballroom ready to close the gap, equipped with little more than their own convictions about this injustice. And I am reminded that I actually did help close that gap myself when those same new corps members hear my own stories and look at me with awe in their eyes. It gives me goosebumps to think about it.
So, while I recognize that we’ve still got a very long way to go to fully realize true independence in this country, particularly for those who are the most marginalized, I can also see that there are plenty of people out there who are making a difference. My friends and colleagues around the Bay who fight the status quo, leaders who around the nation create change.
Independence Day always makes me a little sappy. When I hear “Born in the USA” or “God Bless the USA” I get a little teary-eyed, not gonna lie. I am proud to be an American. Being proud doesn’t mean that I blindly follow whatever somebody says. Being proud means that I strive for the ideals set forth in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, and I fight for those freedoms for my students. After all, they deserve the same freedoms that I have had, and if these Truths are really self-evident, then change can’t be too far behind. What an amazing thing to celebrate this Independence Day.