This weekend, through the support of my school district, I was lucky to attend the TFA 25th Anniversary Summit in Washington, D.C.
Writing now feels like picking avocados in a rush at the supermarket, hoping they'll be ripe, hoping the whole pile won't fall to the floor when you pick one from the bottom. This weekend was so big picture - so much talk of news and history and a path forward - when my day to day is so small. I've been using words to illustrate the things on my desk and my kids' faces when they get in their mom's car at the end of the day. Using them to tease out a generational issue feels harder, further out of my reach, but necessary.
Between the sessions and swag bags, around the cocoon of the privilege of discussing privilege in a huge DC conference center, hung a legacy of struggle and good will, hard work and resilience. That first corps members asked - how can I afford to fail? And the question today is the same, for Teach for America and for all educators.
Education is a civil rights issue; teaching should be a fight. Colorado State Senator Mike Johnston gave a speech tying Selma to our march now to educational equity. The change we seek hasn't fully happened. Churches are still bombed, police still shoot, some schools in Memphis prepare only 4% of their students. But we've got to keep working. Quasi religious rhetoric: shining lights and climbing mountains. Words building to a crescendo just like the spoken word poet who reminded us to live like we have a microphone under our tongue - our words matter and our silence is dangerous.
I will be thinking about my words all week. I will be smiling at my kids more. I will be thinking about how I, doing my best job, can advocate for them. I remembered the love that needs to go into the classroom every day. Without that, you don't have anything; without that, teaching is just talking and making copies.
I've been listening to Martin Luther King's speeches for the past few weeks now, ever since Spotify made a playlist that intersperses them with Common and John Legend and Jay-Z. We read about him and Rosa Parks and the kids wrote about him as their hero without my prompting. As I understand more and more the lack of services my part of the country receives - as I feel both outsider and insider for the privileges I have - As I listen to the news from Flint, from New Mexico, from New York- I've been thinking about and wondering if what I'm doing, anyone doing, is any progress at all.
On Friday afternoon, I ran around the National Mall. I stopped near the Washington Monument, imagined the grass full of people, imagined a clear firm voice. I kept going. Three chalk-like boulders, a full story high, turned gold around rush hour. I jogged in.
There's a small path, like someone split a rock face. Martin Luther King stares out at the tidal basin, chin up, reminding of the way to carve a path through monumental obstacles. How you move doesn't matter, but you've got to move.
(While my efforts to make #teacherstryna a trending hashtag were unsuccessful, you can read my notes from some of the sessions I attended here: https://twitter.com/charsnewweb )