Day 3 of Induction is done, and it simultaneously feels like we’re just getting started and like we’ve been here forever. The days are long and structured and generally more useful than I initially assume they’ll be, but it’s hard to stay focused on what’s going on with the specter of Institute looming over every workshop and lecture. Thus far, we haven’t been given a lot of details on how it’s going to go down; what we have gotten is a lot of “You’ll see when you get there!”s along with raised eyebrows and knowing smiles. So we continue to break ice and share our feelings and keep our eyes locked on Sunday.
Despite all the icebreaking and introductions, it’s hard to get to know people here– I mean really get to know them. Every morning we file into the dining hall for breakfast in our business clothes, looking so much like walking, talking resumes. So professional, so accomplished. Even the group outings have the same toy-just-taken-out-of-the-box feel to them, despite the change of dress. We talk about where we went to school, old jobs, what we did there, what brought us to apply for and commit to TFA, how weird the interviews were, and what we do (and very occasionally someone is willing to venture what they don’t) like about the program. The workshops have been asking us to talk about racial, cultural and class identity, so we’ll talk about that when prompted, in the very safe and guarded way that you talk about those sort of things in that sort of setting.
So I was really surprised at lunch today when I sat down with a few corps members, including one girl I hadn’t even met yet, and the conversation quickly got real. It started with one of us sharing some pretty heavy family stress, and I was amazed when the entire table jumped in right away with support, advice and tales of their own similar personal struggles: how everyone seated there had faced substance abuse, eating disorders, self-mutilation or suicide, a host of other heartaches in themselves and/or those they cared for, and had lived to tell about it. Thrived, even. No talking resumes here. Just real people who had been through the darkness only to come out on the other side of it and decide that what they really wanted to do for at least two years of their lives is bring some light to children who desperately need it. I was floored; that whole “humility” thing TFA has been asking us to think about this week? I thought I got it, but I appreciate it even more now.
These aren’t the kind of things that TFA (or any employer, obviously) is going to ask you about during your interview, but that conversation gave me so much more faith in my fellow teachers-to-be than any student leadership position on a resume ever could, and in seeing myself in our shared stories, I found a bit more faith in myself, too. Because that darkness comes for all of us at some point in our lives, and goodness knows it will come for some of our students (let’s get real, it may already have done so). And they’ll need structure, and engaging lessons, and lots and lots of hard work to help them grow the skills that will help them combat that darkness, but they’ll also need to count on someone who’s been through it before. I will probably not ever be able to completely understand what some of my future students will have to face in their lives–what form the darkness will take for them– but I think that on some primal level we can sense that all of us as humans have that common enemy, and that we can help each other fight it.
Or, you know, maybe I’m still working Stephen King out of my system.
Anywho, here is a picture of some geese chillin hard in the park where we picnicked today:
I think it was too hot to fly so they decided to stand around and poop instead. Good plan.