Mirrors into Windows

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Jun 27 2011

Institute Begins!

Philadelphia is just how I remember it: beautiful historic buildings, wide city streets lined with theaters and shopping centers, run down neighborhoods facing the challenges of poverty and de facto segregation, amazing murals in unexpected places, hot summers.

And that achievement gap.

I flew in to the City of Brotherly Love for the first time almost exactly one year ago, coming to teach middle schoolers in an amazing summer program called the Breakthrough Collaborative. Appropriately, now I’m back – this time for TFA Institute. I was placed in the Miami-Dade Corps and we’re all up in Philly with the corps from Baltimore, D.C., Delaware, Boston, and Greater Philadelphia for our five-week intensive training. Today was our first day, so we experienced the massive lines for the cafeteria and early buses (6:50am departure), and also got to visit our schools and meet our colleagues for the summer. It was a long day with lots of training sessions and no kids, who are the one’s we’re eagerly waiting to meet next week. In the evening we had a Welcome Ceremony with a particularly encouraging and inspiring address from Jason Kamras, who taught and continues to work in the DC Public Schools.

One of the Miami-Dade 2010 Corps Members gave me this advice for Institute when we met at Induction last week: “Be a sponge.” I’m here to soak it all in, take in as many tips and tricks and learn as much as I can. But it can’t be a passive experience. I need to seek out all of the guidance and resources that are available here, in this concentrated environment, for this limited time. I’m also here to make a difference for my summer school students, who will be 7th graders. Their academic futures are in my hands for the next four weeks.

So why the name of this blog? A quote by  journalist Sydney J. Harris that resonates with me:

“The whole purpose of education is to turn mirrors into windows.”

This post takes care of a lot of the basic background, so moving on I hope to share stories from the classroom, thoughts and concerns about my new profession, ideas, questions, quotes… whatever seems right when I sit down to type.

I’ll leave you with my latest “Why I TFA” – for good measure:

I teach for America because I know that today, “education” does not mean the same thing in all neighborhoods and all cities across America, and because I have seen, already and in my limited experience, how one moment of academic success can change a child’s outlook on their schooling and on their life. I want all of my students, and all children, to be able to dream big and achieve absolutely anything they want to achieve. I teach for America because I want to unlock the power of my students’ minds, and help them to not only defy but rewrite the expectations that our society has been complacent with for too long.

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