Danya in Dallas

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Jun 08 2012

Induction Recap

So I have completed most of induction, and I am all packed up and ready to fly home to Hyde Park for a few days to graduate!*

Induction basically consisted of getting to know our fellow corps members, past corps members, and TFA staff, participating in guided reflection on the coming 2 years, getting paperwork filled out, making friends, and studying up on the history of the region and the achievement gap issues that are specific to the students that we’ll be teaching. It was a lot of work and I’ve gotten very little sleep/eaten very little food, but after doing it, I am _way_ more comfortable and happy with what I will be doing for at least the next two years, the people I will be joining the corps with, and I am more or less reconciled to where I was placed (Dallas was round my 11th-12th choice – I don’t remember, but it’s slowly growing on me). I was relieved about a lot of things – mostly that I was able to meet very interesting, impressive, and kind colleagues.

Here are excerpts from what the reflections I have been working on and the notes I have been taking. :

“What is the achievement gap?”

  • One of the many faces of systematic oppression based on race, class, and gender/sexuality.
  • A form of domination that prevents students from accessing the tools necessary to participate in various relations of power.
  • Institutions that are supposed to be empowering and enlightening children are instead “holding cells” in the service of maintaining a stable hegemony in politics, labor, and culture.
  • See Exodus 1:10-11, where a migrant population (like the one that I will be serving) has grown too numerous, and Pharaoh panics – appoints harsh taskmasters over them. In the same way, harsh taskmasters are appointed over many students in failing public schools – bad teachers, the police, etc.
“What are the mechanisms of the achievement gap?”
  • “Taskmasters.” Alongside bad educators and administrators, the racist prison industrial system disproportionately persecutes the communities in which my students live – targets not just my students but their family members and support networks.
  • Documentation and borders – undocumented students and their families must live and work in fear in order to scratch out a living.
  • Bad resources and equipment.
  • Corporate business interests that maintain a forced relationship with schools – whether it be through textbooks, school lunches, technology, etc. Forced to pay tribute to companies that are either directly or elsewhere working against our children’s future. The tragic thing is that there are often no alternatives. Either Pepsi sells its drinks in the lunchroom or the kids don’t get books, and you can’t play politics with kids’ textbooks. Even if the long term affects may outweigh the short term impact, you are still hurting your kids and cheating them out of what little opportunity they have.
Privilege Inventory: “What put me on my trajectory to be sitting here in TFA Induction?”
  • Internet access.
  • Parents’ expectation that “college is not an option.”
  • Suburban affluence and privilege that allowed me to reflect on it and eventually reject it.
  • Books: Nichomachean Ethics, Walden, The Republic
  • Social network of other privileged classmates and friends from same background that made it so that it wasn’t just necessary to go to college, but that I “couldn’t just go to _any_ college.”
  • My teachers didn’t really need to display active leadership roles – despite the fact that many did. I had enough privilege and motivation from home that college was never a question. Certainly, I got into a much better college because of the wisdom and assistance of very good teachers, but on my own I could have gotten in at least somewhere.
  • No criminal record or history of incarceration in my family.
  • Being a “white” Latin American who can often pass as white.
  • Learning English at an early age (5), and having parents who learned English.
  • Access to great professors.
  • Encouragement and recognition from many sources – family, community, school, etc.

“What prompts us to lead?”

  • Rage, discontent (Achilles in the Iliad, Walden)
  • Pursuit of Virtue and Beauty (Plato, Aristotle, Epicurus, Seneca, etc.)
  • Circumstance and emergencies (no one else around)
  • Jealousy, resentment, pride, coveting, calculation

Costs of leadership:

  • Being eliminated or cast out by those whose authority you challenge (ex.┬áHaving to drink hemlock surrounded by your closest friends, fined, arrested, imprisoned, social sanctions)
  • Having to work alone, maintaining enthusiasm when others have not. Losing friends, or having them publicly doubt you can do any good.
  • Confronting personal discomfort and weaknesses.
  • Accountability.
  • Making a fool out of yourself.
Benefits of leadership:
  • Control over direction of change.
  • Personal happiness in doing good.
  • Recognition, trust.
  • Moments of rejoicing after success.
“Ritual-based education” – Thought I want to build on later.
Anyways, that’s all I’ll post from my notebook. Sorry I couldn’t incorporate it into any coherent “treatise on education” or whatever, haha, but I’m really tired and just wanted to share my thoughts in a quick and straight-to-the-point manner.
Next week, I’ll begin Institute at Rice University in Houston for 5 weeks! Stay tuned!

*Yes, home – at Induction we had to share where we considered home, and I realized that the whole time I had been introducing myself, it felt more appropriate to call Hyde Park home than anywhere else I’ve lived.

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