Mr. Parello Sensei

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Apr 15 2013

My Education Career: Discouragement and Optimism

The 2012-2013 school year has been a blur; with only forty days left, it still feels like I’ve barely gotten into it.  I’ve spent the entire year in a substitute role at my charter school, and I’m eager- or maybe desperate- to find a job as a full time teacher, hopefully at the same school.  For the last two months of school, I’ve started teaching a special two hour class on world languages and cultures every Tuesday and Thursday while the teachers attend meetings.  Knowing French and a bit of Japanese has given me a good tool to get the kids at my school excited about learning about foreign cultures.

As spring moves towards summer, I’ll be approaching six years in a profession that followed a dramatically different trajectory than the one I imagined when I began.  When I joined the corps in 2007, I expected to stay in the classroom for a long time- at least for six years- before considering moving on to anything else.  My unexpectedly rough first year led me to leave TFA before my two year commitment was finished and pursue a traditional credential.  Whereas finishing my two years in the corps would have given me the Americorps education grant, I made the decision to take out loans and pay for my traditional credential entirely on my own.  I’ve often looked back to this decision in recent years as the worst decision that I have made since graduating from college.  Instead of over $40,000 in loans to pay back, I could have had a teaching credential fully paid off and been able to claim myself as a TFA alum.  Sadly, in the current economy, student debt has often become bad debt.

The state of my career has often left me feeling highly discouraged.  Instead of being six years into the teaching career that I imagined when I applied to TFA in 2006, I am $40,000 in debt with one year of full time teaching in the U.S. under my belt.  Nevertheless, the unexpected trajectory of my career took me places and gave me experiences that I never would have had if the first year of TFA had gone well and I had completed the program. As a substitute I got a chance to work with every elementary grade level in dozens of schools.  I got to experience traditional student teaching in addition to an alternative credentialing program.  Most importantly, if I had been securely locked into a job in 2010 I would never have gone to Japan, which turned into a defining experience for me.  Although I continue to seek the opportunity to finish what I began and find a new permanent job as a full-time teacher, circumstances have allowed me to see some fascinating things.  In his widely shared commencement speech at Stanford, Steve Jobs said that people can’t connect the dots of their life forward; only backwards.  So I stay optimistic that my unexpected trajectory in education will leave me with a trail of dots that will all make sense in retrospect some day.  Until then, I certainly can’t complain about the delighted audience of elementary kids that I have for my lessons on Japan and France.  I’ve allowed myself to fall into unhappiness in the past, but there are so many good things to savor.

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