TFA is always in the mood to inspire.  Sitting through all of our Curriculum Specialist Sessions, our Literacy Sessions, structured Differentiated Time, even teaching in the classroom etc. is like having an Education in America college class taught by Oprah herself.

So, at the end of most days we, the 2008 crops (to be harvested, or rather in the process of being harvested), get to hear an inspirational speech from someone famous, or someone not so famous, about changing the world, or inspiring children, the future of our world, making a difference, impacting future generations, etc., etc., etc.

Sorry if I ever sound flippant about these very legitimate and serious and powerful things.  It’s just it blurs sometimes.

Anyways, one of the ones TFA has really grabbed hold of in the last weeks of teaching for us (so that we can stay invested, and so that we can keep our students invested) is this part of a speech, the main thrust of it being: “How Are The Children?”

And now we have signs up throughout our school that read “How are the children?”  Keep in mind all of our summer school students can see these signs, they walk past them every day, and I can’t help but wonder if they actually read them and (if so) what they think about them.

The crops response to this motivational push has been to constantly repeat “How are the children?” constantly.  We’re really saying “How tired are you of hearing ‘How are the children?’ constantly from every sector of TFA governance right now?”  And that irony has not failed to resonate with the TFA administration at our school.  So, we’ve had an emergency meeting.  The thrust of this emergency meeting was (again, to inspire and motivate) to keep our heads in the game, to realize that we still have a week and a half of teach, etc.

It did not really work.  Because running rampant down the halls of the Temple dorm right are criticisms and critiques of TFA and the job all the crops have been undergoing this summer.  It’s generally negative in tone.  But only in some respects.

It’s negative first because it’s hard to see some people quit.  It’s just as hard to continue working with people throughout this summer who only know they will quit at the end of summer school.  The people who have already quit, dropped out, left, leave a hole.  My four person quite is now only occupied by three bodies, the buses are just a little bit emptier in the morning, people who were just teaching one hour now have to work twice as hard to teach two hours a day.

That emptiness kills enthusiasm.  It kills people’s spirits, and it has become so much harder to maintian positive in this pressure cooker atmosphere.

Maybe because of that negativity many of us (read: almost all of us, in one respect or another) have become overly (because we are all criticizing too much) critical of TFA and the system we have been going through.  But we all laugh at the absurdity of it sometimes.

We laugh about how hard teaching is, how good or how bad we are, how mind numbing this whole process can be sometimes, about how much paper being a teacher uses (trees fall in the name of education with just one hour of my teaching), how we deal with incompetencies, how we poorly cope with the systems, how we couple and uncouple like nervous high schoolers, how we waste time in an effort to create more work later, how royally screwed up the system is all the time, and of course, most of all, about “How Are The Children?”