Greetings from LAX, where I’m currently waiting to board my red-eye flight to Providence, Rhode Island, to join my fellow 2011 Rhode Island CMs for our week-long Induction. [Update: I’m now at my hotel room and waiting for my luggage, which didn’t make the connection… Sadness.] A little bit of background: in the style of ABCDE (one of my primary sources of information and inspiration during the TFA application and interview process) and for the sake of confidentiality and prudence, I intend to keep names and biographical information on this blog to a minimum. Besides, most of you reading this probably already know who I am. Therefore, suffice it to say that I am a native Angeleno who recently graduated from college on the east coast and will be spending the next two years teaching secondary math at a turnaround high school in Providence (more about what that means in a future post).
This blog is obviously a teaching blog. However, my hope is that it will be more than just that. To be sure, I’ll write plenty about my pedagogy and classroom management, and their effect on my students’ academic achievement; about interesting things that I observe and hear in the classroom; about the people I meet inside and outside school; and about the lessons that I learn as a new teacher and educational reformer. However, I also intend to ask the deeper, probing questions that compelled me to apply to TFA in the first place—the whys, in addition to the whats and the hows. And I expect that these questions and reflections will be an extension of my faith and walk with God, which I consider to be the center of my life. (This is meant to serve as both a statement of purpose and a semi-disclaimer to readers.)
So, without further ado, here is one of several tough questions that I’ve been wrestling with in the past couple weeks as I wade through the pre-Institute reading and reflections:
If, as a believer, I am called to “keep [my life] free from the love of money and be content with what [I] have” (Hebrews 13:5), then why do I value helping the poor and the destitute break out of their conditions and live more comfortably? If, as the apostle Paul writes, I must learn to “be content whatever the circumstances” (Philippians 4:11), then what right do I have to tell students that they deserve more than the life they currently live? It seems like a double standard—a much more palatable double standard than most, admittedly, but a double standard nonetheless. And make no mistake: the ultimate goal of TFA—which I believe in firmly—is to put students in underserved communities on the path to college, so that they will attain success not just in academics but also in life. (I know you’re probably asking where this is going. Bear with me.)
I believe the answer, as well as my calling and mandate (not to mention the title of this blog), can be found in Isaiah 58:6-10.
“Is not this the fast that I choose:to loose the bonds of wickedness,to undo the straps of the yoke,to let the oppressed go free,and to break every yoke?Is it not to share your bread with the hungryand bring the homeless poor into your house;when you see the naked, to cover him,and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,and your healing shall spring up speedily;your righteousness shall go before you;the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer;you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’If you take away the yoke from your midst,the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,if you pour yourself out for the hungryand satisfy the desire of the afflicted,then shall your light rise in the darknessand your gloom be as the noonday.
God has a unique heart for the oppressed, the hungry, and the naked. He sees their pain, and His compassion overflows for them. The sense of injustice and outrage that I feel as a believer toward the inequities of this world are eclipsed by the grief that He feels when His children are unable to experience His love because of the yoke of their physical circumstances. And in a strange, paradoxical remedy, He uses broken and imperfect people such as me as instruments of that love. This is not a presumption that a family struggling to live paycheck-to-paycheck or disillusioned with a system that has failed them for years cannot know and derive peace from the love of God, but rather an acknowledgment that because I have been so blessed in my life, it is my obligation and joy to help all of His children experience the blessings that He gives freely by grace—to not turn away from my own flesh and blood. And that’s why I’m here today: with the glory of the Lord as my rear guard, I will do everything in my power to be not just an excellent teacher for my students, but also a servant, defender, and friend.
With that said… I can hardly contain my excitement about the upcoming several weeks. Induction will be an awesome time of getting to know the region and my fellow corps members—many of whom I met briefly a couple weeks ago, when we interviewed for teaching positions—and Institute will no doubt be an intense but invaluable milestone on my path to becoming a highly effective teacher. But before all that, I think a nap is in order.
And thus it begins…