Like most women my age, I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about my future. I know I want to make my mark and leave the world better than I found it, and what better way to do that than by using my talents to inspire and educate at-risk youth in struggling public school systems. And without an education degree, Teach for America seems like the most practical, albeit problematic option. You see, Teach for America receives criticism on a number of fronts—for being destructive to our school system by putting inexperienced young college grads in teaching positions and also for not being half as easy as marrying Trent and just settling down.
Do I ignore all of the flaws I find with the TFA model in favor of making the difference I so desperately want to make? Or do I just take Trent up on his proposal of marriage and do that instead?
I know TFA has an intensive training program for its new teachers, but it strikes me as pretty presumptuous that they think they can give someone the equivalent of a master’s degree in three months just because the “prospective teacher” in question went to an elite Liberal Arts school. Is that educational elitism something that I want to feed into and participate in? Or would it make more sense to move to Chicago for Trent’s job with Bain and maybe look for marketing jobs there while attending nice, networking dinners and going for couples jogs in Millennium Park? Decisions, decisions.
Although low-income areas are the most in need of good teachers, most TFA teachers had upper-middle class childhoods. I’m afraid that having a teacher ignorant of their lived experience could actually disadvantage the children by saddling them with someone who can’t empathize with the challenges they face. Also, Trent’s family has a stake in the Bulls and I think they could rent out the Palmer House for the reception. He’s already agreed to a live band instead of a DJ, and his brother owns a restaurant so the catering issue basically solves itself. AGH! I’m so conflicted!
Not to mention that TFA has strayed in the past few years from its original mission of filling gaps in the education system to removing experienced teachers and replacing them with young, inexperienced rich kids. Would I be perpetuating America’s public education problem by taking a job away from a veteran educator or does my passionate desire to improve the world make me an asset to students? On the flip side, Trent doesn’t want kids for at least another six years, so we’d have plenty of time to travel while he’s on break from business school. Also his aunt just died and left behind plenty of nice household stuff so we could use our wedding registry for vacation packages instead. It’s hard to know where I’ll best be able to make a difference.
At the end of the day—I know that whatever I decide, I’m going to give it my best. So what’s really left for me to do is think about my life: Do I follow my dream to be a teacher, or do I honor my reservations about participating in the systemic dismantling of the public education system while I follow Trent to a life of stability that almost certainly includes a beach house before I’m 30? There are no easy answers except maybe marrying Trent.