For me, teaching is some kind of tree hugging, hippie, revival mission, that should have died during my college days. Sure, I did all of that hipster, liberal stuff in college. I thought I was such a badass. I yelled, “Fascist,” as a shook my little fist at KKK clansmen that decided to parade in New York. I let them know that racism isn’t ok, as I stood safely behind barricades and several rows of police ready with riot gear. I’m sure that those clansmen will think about my threatening fist the next time they decide to hood themselves in my city. I sat in at the college paper offices after they printed an ad for Big Bad Company. The careless policies and practices of Big Bad Company threatened the livelihood of an endangered animal. Yeah, I abandoned the protest when the paper’s editor threatened to call the police, but they got the message. So badass!
The next logical step for a badass like me was Teach for America of course! I was going to save all of those poor, disenfranchised children with tough love, grit, and cool lesson plans. What a novel idea! Donning the Che Guevara shirt I purchased at Urban Outfitters (never read any books about Che’s movement but he looked super groovy in that beret) I skipped around my campus waving my TFA acceptance like a flag.
There are three and a half distinct moments where my disgust for the teaching profession festers. The half happened during my Teach for America experience. It’s a half moment because while I was aware that slice of time would be unforgettable I wasn’t clear about why it was so significant.
On the west side of Chicago, a week after school began, I sat silently on the windowsill of my classroom. Moments before I had “dismissed” my fourth grade class. I hadn’t even bothered to walk them to the school’s exit. The bell rang and the students bolted for the door as they shoved each other, smashed gathering candy wrappers under their feet, and littered the hallway with paper airplanes. One girl took on the brunt of this pandemonium with the elbow to her ribs that sent her flying into one of the full length hall windows. If the window hadn’t been reinforced with a wire mesh it would have cracked. As I sat on that window sill I looked around. I had those plump, bubbled tears threatening to break free and rampage down my face. You know, the kind that makes you feel like you’re looking in a funhouse mirror or through a magnify glass. Despite tearful obstructions I thought I could see clearly. To my right a turned over desk looked abandoned for good. A freshly inked cartoonish middle finger flipped me off from the bookcase where it had been etched. A spiraling pattern of garbage revealed a trashcan’s trajectory as it was kicked nearly halfway across the room. The next day I handed in my resignation…