Every couple of weeks, I get an e-mail from TFA begging me to check out the latest posts on TeacherPop. When TeacherPop launched, I checked it out a bit in its first week. I liked some of what it had to offer. I liked feeling like I was part of something bigger. Now, however, it seems to be a random collection of pictures, teaching-related Pinterest links, and articles about how to take a poop.
Yesterday, I was sort of rubbed the wrong way by an article titled “How to Make Non-TFA Friends“. Since I don’t really have any non-TFA friends in the Rio Grande Valley, I was excited by the magic secrets I would soon learn. Instead, I came, once again, to the bitter realization that all regions and placements are not created equally. It’s not to say that none of these could be accomplished in the Rio Grande Valley, but in my area, there’s not a chance.
1. Take a grad class. Hey, maybe you’ll even learn something.
The nearest four-year college is 1.5 hours from my placement school, and it’s one of the worst four-year schools in the U.S. Not happening.
2. Get involved. Volunteer.
While this is possible, the volunteer opportunities available are extremely limited and mostly limited to athletics. One rural CM who I know is coaching a special ed baseball league, which he loves. Personally, coaching is really not my type of thing.
3. Get creative. Take a class or join a club.
In urban parts of the Valley, this could happen… just not here.
4. Get active. Join a gym and take the classes they offer, like Zumba!
The nearest gym is 1.5 hours away. Not happening.
5. Get specific. What are you passionate about? Whatever your immediate answer was, there are people out there who share that interest.
Honestly, there aren’t. I feel like my interests are very general (news, writing, etc.), but are only shared by those who value education and have a college degree. When teachers are the only people in my town who have been to college, options are limited.
6. Get agreeable. Ever hear the phrase “beggars can’t be choosers?” Say yes to every invitation and suggestion you’re offered, even if it sounds boring or “not your scene.”
In my two years at my placement school, I have attended three after-school socials, which I loved! But I’ve never been invited to anything else, and have never been invited to any of my co-workers houses. I’ve said yes to every invite; they just haven’t been extended – and other TFA colleagues would cite the same.
7. Get friendly. You know those corps members who are locals—from the region you teach in? Befriend their friends!
There is one local CM, but he doesn’t associate with the other CMs, so there’s really no chance of meeting his friends if I’ve never actually met him.
The most important thing to remember: Don’t get sucked into the black hole of the couch. Get off your butt and go to a concert or bar or park or bookstore. You’re not going to meet anyone on Netflix.
And I think that’s why those of us out here do get sucked into the black hole of the couch.
I have nothing against the CM who wrote this piece. She doesn’t know what life is like in the rural Valley. And I imagine that South Dakota and New Mexico have the same problems. But for a city person, it’s pretty miserable.
I feel like Teach For America constantly tells me that I’m not doing enough in my classroom. Usually, that’s not true, because the individuals responsible are not looking upon the full picture – making assumptions from just a single classroom observation on a state testing day. As a result, it’s hard to look kindly on the fact that TFA is backing a blog that tells tells me I’m not doing enough in my personal life, too.