I feel awkward when people at Induction ask me where I’m from, like they expect me to commiserate with a story about my long trip and the frustration and agony of trying to fit all of your belongings into two suitcases so I could move them across the country. Unfortunately, I have no such sob story. My mom dropped me and my carry-on suitcase off at Induction when she got off work. We didn’t even get halfway through U2-18 on the way downtown.
But the reason I don’t have any such story is pretty cool. I’m from Cleveland.
Yes, I’m from Cleveland and I chose – begged, really – to stay in Cleveland to teach. This city is complex and beautiful and I wanted desperately to be a part of its education revolution. So here I am.
The truth is, I’ve dreamed about this first day in Teach For America for years now. Ever since I was a senior in high school, I knew I was meant for TFA and now that I’m here, I’m like a dog that finally caught up with the car. I really don’t know what I’m going to do now that I’ve sunk my teeth into a tire on a moving vehicle, but I don’t really have many options. I could let go, I could get run over, or I could hold on for dear life, trying to keep up, with the hopes that maybe I’ll get ahead enough that the car will stop.
I’m hoping I’ll be able to hold on to the car. But something our new sites director said today really made me think. During dinner, she made the joke that we’re probably afraid about Induction, but “you’ll be afraid every day for the next two years.” I had never thought about TFA like that before, but I think that’s true. I always get a burst of adrenaline right before I get up to speak in front of people – what is that going to feel like when it’s my students and not just my sorority sisters? They have to love me, but my students on the other hand absolutely don’t. There are lots of things that I’m going to be afraid of during the next two years, I realized. That kind of fear is exhausting.
But then I realized, embrace it. I want to take on that fear and feel it all the way to my core and into my bones. I want to know that fear, face it, and love it. And it’s not just the fear I want to feel in full – I want to feel the absolute joy of watching a student master prepositions. I want to feel the thrill of watching my students perform in their first-ever drama club production and the challenge of rewriting lesson plans after something fails spectacularly.
The word “passion” gets thrown around a lot – in TFA, on college application essays, during job interviews – but I’ve never thought of passion as something I could grow. But I think this Induction, this Institute, these two years, will teach me to grow passion, to feel “the passion of life to its top,” as Oliver Wendell Holmes said. Instead of running away from these highs and lows, I want to feel them as intensely and freshly as possible. And that piercing emotional growth takes TFA out of the realm of simply memorable to profound.
And now – Feist, “I Feel It All.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l-iAS18rv68 (haha, get it? like the title of this post?)