Monday, July 19, 2010

Never gonna give you up

Much obliged to Dina for prodding me to write again. There's a guest post on her blog and a new one for you here too. Here's hoping it's not a one-hit wonder and that I'll actually post some of the things I've got in the back burners.


When I left, I told my students (and myself) that if they invited me, I’d find a way to come to  graduation.  It wasn’t a surprise when a current sophomore asked at the beginning of April if I was still planning on coming. I told her I would if a senior invited me. Bought my plane ticket when one of them sent me a message through Bebo.* Close enough.**

This post isn't about graduation though. It's about a conversation I had with my girl, the sophomore who pestered me into coming. We were waiting for the the ceremony to begin, when she asked, "Cannon, do you think any of the TFAs will still be here when I graduate?"

I don’t know. The people currently teaching through TFA may leave next year. "Is there anyone you think might stay?"

She named a couple of teachers. One's new, so I had no sense. The other taught with me. She's staying for a third year, but she's floated the idea of applying to grad school. I tell my student as much, encouraging her to tell the teachers that she wants them to stay. My students started trying to convince me to stay after the decision had been made. Maybe their guilt trips can be better timed.

"It sucks that you are just getting to know people when they leave."

Yeah. Sorry about that.

"You know what you can do to change that. You can become a teacher. Come back here and don’t leave."

She doesn't want to do that. My girl likes her science. We talk majors and possible careers. She wants to follow her sister's path and be pre-med. And then she comes back with, "I might do TFA though."

I try to cover my surprise. Hadn't we just talked about the downside of TFA? Critics talking about the TFA turnover is one thing, but my girl has lived it at least since she hit middle school. Teachers who she could have for multiple years leave on her time and again. And it's pretty clear that she wouldn't be joining for a life-long career.

"Really? Would you come back here?"


"Where would you want to go?"

"I don’t know. Maybe Kansas."

I’m not the biggest TFA proponent.*** But you better believe that in 4 to 6 years, I'll be telling recruiters to check in on my girl. In the mean time, TFA, you want to work on opening a region in Kansas? Or should we hope that Kansas City, MO is close enough?


*It's like Facebook, only it's the one that my students were on last year.
**Plus, it was my last chance to visit Anne in SoDak.
***Though I hope I'm not a big opponent either.


  1. Wondeful post. Glad to hear your voice again (in a non-140 char format). I missed it.

  2. Thanks, Jason. Think it reiterates the "mixed feelings" that you summed up.

    I've missed my journaling voice this year. (The writing's been slack on all non-academic fronts.) We'll see where it reappears in the near future.

  3. Thanks for sharing this. Going back to graduation was by far one of the highlights of my year, although it certainly makes clear the consequences of my decision to leave. I also taught in one of the rural regions, and I think the experience there can be very different from that of being an urban teacher.

  4. Thanks, Grace. I'm as convinced as you are that teaching in rural schools and teaching in small schools is different. My girl would have had me for all her math courses (or until the math department rearranged the distribution of classes, which we might have done if I was staying). That doesn't happen in most places.

    Also good to hear that you went back for graduation. One of my professors is very impressed that I did, but I don't feel like it's that rare. It would be interesting to track rates of returning (post-leaving) to see students graduate.

  5. I wouldn't have missed it for the world; in fact, I wrote a post about it :)

    Interesting- pretty much every high school teacher I know went back for graduation at least for the years in which they taught the most students. Even a lot of middle school teachers are really good about 8th grade graduation, high school graduation (if it's been long enough). When I was at graduation, my kids' 5th and 6th grade teachers showed up too-- the faculty went out to dinner afterwards, and half the party was in from out of town.

    Is this another rural thing? I'm not convinced, but I admit my sample is heavily biased.