Why The Secretive, Rebellious TFA Alumni Should Attend the 25th Anniversary Summit

My relationship with TFA is like the typical relationship with your family. I loved it unquestionably, I was let down, I rejected it, then I realized that I can’t escape it and it is and will always be a part of who I am.

I usually hide the fact that I’m a TFA alumna. I tell people that I used to teach in New Orleans. Then, in response to their quizzical glances at my lack of a southern accent and my barely 20-something appearance, I have to give up that I started teaching through Teach for America. When I’m speaking to a fellow educator, this admission is hushed with a tinge of shame.

That’s why I was surprised when I bought a plane ticket to attend the 25th Anniversary Summit in Washington D.C. That’s also why I’m writing this blog post–and why you, the secretive, rebellious TFA alumni, should come as well.

First things first, there are scholarships. They are going like hot cakes and you should contact the regional office now. I’m not putting down my paycheck to fly out, and neither should you (unless you have a hefty paycheck; leave the free funds for the people who are struggling.)

We all have our gripes about TFA: we didn’t get enough support to prepare us for what we encountered in our classrooms, we don’t stay around long enough to make sustainable change, we are not listening to the communities that we enter.

Each of these statements include the most inclusive of pronouns–we. We signed up for two years of teaching, learned from the people we met along the way, and are most likely irrevocably changed by our experience. TFA is not going away. It is our responsibility to join the conversation about where it is heading.

And TFA, while it is a behemoth, does listen. It supports executive directors like Brittany Packnett, who go out into the streets of Ferguson. It hears the need for culturally responsive pedagogy and tries to show their teachers how to implement it. It gives us endless surveys to gauge how it can continue to support their teachers.

The reason I am going to the 25th Anniversary Summit is to engage in these debates. Rather than celebrate a quarter of a century with a few rounds of back slapping and a gallery walk, we will spend the first portion of Saturday tackling questions at the core of education equity in America. Take a look at the list:

  • How do we address both education and poverty?
  • What is the role of white leaders on the path to equity?
  • What role should the federal government play in setting education standards and promoting education at a local level?
  • Why think globally when there is so much to do at home?
  • What should we do when a whole school fails?

This is a weekend to think critically about what is possible with the collective action of our close to 50,000 corps members and alumni. Moreover, it is a chance to voice your opinion in a space where you can be heard. And hopefully, you will leave with new connections and carry out your mission to combat educational inequity.

-Marina Balleria

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