One day, all children in this nation will have the opportunity to attain an excellent education.
This weekend was Teach for America’s 20th Anniversary Summit. As I came into work this morning, I tried to summarize the conference and share my reactions and post-summit feelings. I think a lot of me is still processing the weekend and I really didn’t do a very good job capturing the energy surrounding the summit.
In the two week interim between finding out I was accepted into the 2011 corps and November 22nd, when I had to accept of deny my offer, I could think of many reasons NOT to do TFA and found myself reading dozens of blogs and articles filled with criticism of the program.
Almost any doubt that I had about the strength and mission of the program, it’s corps members and it’s alumni were completely washed away. 11,000 educators came together to talk about, plan and fight to close the achievement gap. Maybe I drank too much Kool-Aid but for the first time, I’m really seeing Teach for America as a movement. The closing plenary on Saturday night had dozens of alumni reflect on the question, “What Role will You Play?”
Teach for America is a two-pronged approach. Most people are aware of the first component: a two-year commitment in the nation’s neediest schools from high-achieving college graduates. The second, and almost more important aspect, is that Teach for America wants it’s members to be active in closing the achievement gap regardless of what they do after their two years. Whether it’s pushing policy, community organizing, creating social enterprises, the commitment to education equity does not end after two years, if anything it’s just getting started.
A Harvard study recently concluded that TFA alums represents an insane percentage of entrprepreneurial organizations within the education sector. The emphasis of the closing session on Saturday was that we cannot quit after our two year committment, the sense of urgency should only be stronger and we need to take some role in advancing the mission, whether it’s in the classroom or not.
The summit was really inspiring and it was great to talk so much with my friends who are current CMs and their colleagues about their experiences in the classroom. Even after the summit, when getting drinks on Saturday night or coffee on Sunday afternoon, so much of the conversation revolved around education and I gained such a great perspective on what to expect in my first year and also how much passion each CM has. TFA is creating an environment, where even in their free time, corps members are talking about classroom best practices and policy reform. It’s pretty remarkable.
I learned so much in D.C. and left inspired but also challenged to make as big of an impact as possible when I step into the classroom in a few months.
I’m not really doing the Summit nor my feelings justice but felt the need to write about it somehow…