Wednesday, December 25, 2013

0 Reflection on 2013: Being a Walking Contradiction

For most of us 2013 was the year we graduated college and entered the “real world”. For me, this pales in comparison to the larger change in my life this year: becoming a walking contradiction.

At our core we are all partial hypocrites. It is a flaw that most people do not acknowledge and can go about their daily lives without problem. We tell ourselves that it is okay to lie, but criticize our neighbor for the same action. We blame our own mistakes on situational problems, but see others’ as flaws of their character. If I am late to a meeting I know it was because of traffic, but if someone else gave the same excuse I would roll my eyes. It is so easy to give ourselves benefit of the doubt and then place blame on others in the exact situation.

In the same vein, I found myself able to forgive my actions and decisions based on “the right reasons” and not for selfish gain or living up to societal norms.  I joined Teach For America (TFA) and now watch neighborhood schools close and the unemployment rate of Chicago Public School (CPS) teachers rise. I see students outwardly disrespect TFA teachers because they know we will leave. I have also now experienced first hand how poorly we are trained before being thrown in a classroom. On top of that, I commute through the one of the most segregated cities in the country where the north side is being gentrified and the south side has gang issue spreading and crime rates increasing.

On the other hand, I have so many moments of joy in my new life. I spend evenings laughing with my friends and get to explore a city that I love and most of the time the contrary nature of my life could be over looked.  I could not complete this summary of my life without at least mentioning my students: I love them. I cannot imagine not teaching them and constantly feel lucky to be part of their lives. I am not naïve enough to believe that I am the best teacher out there for them, especially with the unemployment rate of CPS teachers. However, the teacher turnover rate at charter schools is exceptionally high (about 2 years in Chicago) and I am of the strong belief that my leaving now would not benefit my students. Indeed one of the best teachers at my school is a former TFA member and someone I whole heartedly look up to.

It is these two sides conflicting sides that I have to balance both in my head and in my heart. The moments of regret come at the macro level with the knowledge that I am advancing problematic institutions and the moments of elation are more consistently at the micro level with students and friends.  I do not know if/how I am going to break out of this hypocrisy that I have built around myself. It is first step in acknowledging it, but does not actually fix any of the problems that I have created. This is my contradiction that I will be living with.

If I had to relive 2013, I do not know if I would make the same decisions.  I can only move forward and focus on my morals matching my actions. I guess there is no true catharsis in this reflection, but that is real life. Everything does not come to a close when the year does, but it does give us a chance to reflect and make changes before the calendar moves us forward. 


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