When I think back on my nearly six years in the U.S. Army, and look forward to continuing to serve my country as a teacher in Jacksonville, Florida, I’m reminded of President Theodore Roosevelt’s oft-quoted “The Man in the Arena” speech.
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles…. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause...”
This “man in the arena” is me. I am someone who believes that though there may be challenges – though I may stumble and fall along the way – ultimately I can make a difference.
He is also the 5,300 committed individuals standing beside me as incoming Teach For America 2014 corps members. No amount of naysayers can convince us that – by working in partnership with families and communities – we can’t help build a better future for our students.
We see President Roosevelt’s man when he is already in the arena. But I like to imagine his path there, and those who helped him become the best version of himself. I’m excited to approach my classroom with individuals from all different backgrounds – while united in mission, such differences make us stronger as a whole.
Fifty percent of us identify as people of color. One-third are the first in their families to attend college, and 33 percent have graduate school or professional experience. Like me, 100 are veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces.
I’m grateful to my military experience for preparing me for the classroom. The Army is an institution built upon a shared mission of service, imparting upon its members characteristics particularly useful for educators. From day one of basic training, servicemen and women are immersed in goal-oriented, growth mindsets. We take on various leadership roles throughout our careers, and deal with high stress situations to move operations forward.