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Welcome to Alumnihood: Reflecting on the 2022 TFA Indy Corps Experience

May 20, 2024

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As I browsed the aisles of the Castleton TJ Maxx in May of 2022, eagerly searching for decor for my post-grad apartment, a framed quote caught my eye. Across the white background scrawled seven glossy golden words, once spoken by Nelson Mandela: “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”  I purchased the print largely because it fit with the gold theme I had already begun curating. Two years ago, I had no clue how pertinent this short string of words would be in regard to my journey as a Teach for America corps member.  

The first day of our summer practicum feels simultaneously like yesterday and light years away.  I can vividly recall the slew of emotions that flooded over me as I walked into the TFA Indy office in June to meet all of you. There was a palpable sense of excitement and enthusiasm filling the air. We were all starting a new journey together, and above all else, we were committed. Committed to two years of dedicating our lives to teaching – though we didn’t know exactly what that would entail at the time.

Over the summer, we met some amazing Victory College Prep students, ate lots of catered lunches together (thank you, TFA Indy), and formed some incredible friendships that would serve as a major part of our support system over the next two years. While practicum was an integral part of our TFA experience, I think I speak for all of us when I say that no summer training nor amount of pep talks could have possibly prepared us sufficiently for our first year of teaching.

I don’t think there are words to accurately articulate the experience of a first-year teacher, let alone a first-year teacher working toward certification. Truthfully, if you know, you know. Shortly after the school year began, I began to feel like I was constantly fighting an uphill battle. I would cross off one task on my to-do list, only for it to be replaced with countless more. I brought home hours of work every day, and the line between personal and professional life became so blurred I questioned if it even existed. I felt my mental and physical health drastically suffering and found myself questioning if teaching was what I was supposed to be doing, wondering where the intoxicating enthusiasm I had felt just months before had vanished.

In February 2023, I was unexpectedly broken up with by my boyfriend at the time, who I had moved to Indianapolis to be with. It was when I reached rock bottom that I started to rediscover my love for teaching. I started to find love everywhere. I found love in my students, telling me that I deserved better and I needed to “stand on business,” I found love in my instructional coach leaving a candy bar on my desk with the note, “Roses are red, violets are blue, you’re too great for someone to be unsure about you,” and I found love in my co-workers turned close friends asking me how I was doing on a daily basis. I would venture to say that the majority of us encountered some degree of challenges during our first year – whether they be personal or professional. Regardless of the battles you had to face, I am incredibly proud of you for persevering and continuing to show up for your students.

I genuinely did not know if I would make it until May 2023. But somehow, I did. And somehow, we all did.

The progression of a first-year teacher to a second-year teacher can be remarkably likened to the transition from winter to spring. Year two quickly revealed itself as a season for new beginnings, growth, and hope. The worst of the storm has been weathered, and while there may have been occasional, unexpected flurries, the challenges were nothing I couldn’t handle. My passion for education had re-blossomed, and fulfilling my commitment as a TFA corps member no longer felt like an impossible feat but rather an attainable accomplishment within arms reach. My days were sprinkled with joy, and I was no longer drowning in dread. I became increasingly confident in my abilities and assets as an educator and found myself speaking up in spaces I used to find daunting. This year, I was able to push my students to achieve greatness far beyond data in a spreadsheet – and I could not be more proud of them.

At this moment, I charge you to reflect on the students who have made you proud, who have challenged you and taught you patience, who have seen you at your worst and inspired you to be your best, who have allowed you to step into their worlds and minds and help shape them and above all else, the ones who have motivated you to reimagine what it means to be an excellent educator.

Undoubtedly, the most fulfilling, heartwarming takeaway from our corps member experience will be the relationships that we have formed with our students. These relationships have transformed us just as much as they have impacted our students and, on some days, were the single reason we didn’t give up. I’m sure each of you recall receiving a specific note from a student that touched your heart in a way few things have or ever will. Personally, the words “Dear Ms. Monagan, Thank you for always helping me with my work. Before your class, I did not like math, but you changed that for me, and now I enjoy math class” etched onto yellow construction paper with Sharpie will always stay with me. Wherever we go in life, these notes, and the heartwork that we have done as educators in the city of Indianapolis will come with us.

At times, it seemed impossible, but now we are “done.” I am proud of all of you for making it to where we are today – for persisting through what will likely be the two most difficult years of our lives. However, while we are now finished with our two-year commitment as TFA corps members, our work toward making education more equitable has just begun.

Whether you are staying in the classroom or not, I am confident that you will continue to make an impact in both your personal and professional life. Wherever your journey takes you, I hope that the lessons you’ve learned over the last two years help guide you and shape you into the person you are meant to be.

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