Facing La Frontera

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
May 21 2012

Cool as a Kitten


This is a very self-reflective, perhaps even venting/getting it off the chest post. It hasn’t even been really edited.  Just thought you should know before you read it :)

This past Sunday, on my perfect drive to the beach, I was just smiling for no reason. And I realized that I am finally back at that place where I am just happy. Only a scale of 1-10, I’d say a solid 8.

I don’t think I’ve been consistently just “happy on a random day” since last September, so this is fantastic. These past two years have been very interesting because I’ve struggled in ways that I didn’t anticipate.

Yes, I struggled somewhat in my school, and yes there are still days when I let my students drive me to tears, but overall I have adored my school experience. I can’t imagine doing anything else right now. Today, we culminated a 2 and 1/2 week social entrepreneurship project. Students researched an issue in the Valley and had to come up with solutions. They wrote a research essay and presented their finding via tri-fold. Research Week-style :)      They were amazing, and the parents and teachers who came were raving about their professionalism and knowledge of the subject. It was a very proud moment.

But anyways, it has been my personal life that I really struggled with. My first year, I had difficulty maintaining balance, and then my 2nd year, when I could’ve made it work, I found myself piling on more work in hopes of driving away the impending sense of loneliness that the expanse of the Valley sometimes brings.


So what has changed, since, I would argue, spring break? First, the school pressure has cut back majorly. Yes, the thought of the state results still cause my stomach to quiver, but I don’t really have a 2nd prep anymore, and I don’t have to begin my afternoon at 5:15 every day because of tutoring. Secondly, I’ve begun hanging out with a group of about 6 people, just doing things here and there, mostly the beach to be honest.

Lastly, I feel very affirmed as a teacher and in my pursuits. I have struggled a lot this year with things that I know are going to seem ridiculous to me in the future. I was the only corps member at my school who didn’t seem to be nominated for any type of leadership development (and those of you who know me know how I CRAVE to develop, lol), and while many of my friends are out getting Master’s degrees (or PhD’s, lol), here I have spent two years with 13-year-olds. Oh yea, I think about that sometimes.


But here’s the difference between the girl who applied and the person writing this blog today. I applied to TFA because I wanted to make a contribution to society. I had always dreamed of being a teacher, and I thought this seemed like the perfect fit. It had nothing to do with the social injustices that infiltrate our country. I shied away from the conversations where someone at Institute (our training) would bring up race or economic status. In my head, I would think, “Sure, I’m white and we weren’t poor, but I come from the same area as some of my students will. I’ve had best friends who are illegal immigrants or who got pregnant at a young age. I myself worked through most of college. Don’t tell me I don’t know what’s going on. Everyone just needs to work hard for what they want.”

And I still believe that. But I also believe that we have to give students the opportunity to be able to work hard. And many of our schools aren’t doing that, and no surprise, oftentimes it is my Latino students who are coming from the crappiest schools. UGH. It makes me so angry. And yes, a huge part of the issue is often the background they come from as well. But there is something wrong when I look at the census statistics for my town in the Valley and Texas, and the Texas average is 25% with bachelor’s degrees (above the age of 25), and my town’s average is 8%.

When I told my students this, we thought of it as – of the 120 of you, only 10 would go to college in this town.

Ok, so you might be thinking  - well, there is something besides ethnicity that’s different…you’re on the border of Mexico, that affects things.

Ok, but I also looked up my hometown, which is not on the border. 11% with bachelor’s degrees. My jaw dropped a bit.

There is just something wrong with this. So, so, wrong.


And so yes, I continue as a teacher next year. But it is with a much deeper understanding of what is at stake for my students and what we are fighting for.

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