If you click my profile, you'll see the Ethics of Service blog. Last year I was asked to contribute to the class blog for a class of the same name. Even though the class ended a year ago, I posted again in December about the decision to leave. Wanted to share this with you.
I don't know if anyone will read this, but this seems like the appropriate space for sharing my current reflection process. I'm struggling with the ethics of ending service.
I'm working on my grad school applications, planning to leave the reservation next year. Yet when the security guard asked me yesterday if I would be back next year, I said I didn't know. Although I do not feel called to teach for the rest of my life, and want to attend graduate school, I'm experiencing guilt for this decision.
They didn’t expect me to make it through my first year. On my first day of school, I allowed students to ask me questions. The most frequent question was, “How long will you be here?” Time and again they have been abandoned. By teachers. By family. By volunteers who are here for a week of their summer, leaving to tell stories of the difficulty of these people's lives.
My return from Christmas convinced some students that I would make it through the year; they never said the words, but their attitude toward me changed. Girls who had walked out of class refusing to do work, moved to the front of the room to work on the board and stayed afterschool for extra help. While I know my teaching has improved, my continued return has gained a trust that transforms my classroom. Stability--stay ability--is a gift they do not receive often enough.
When I leave, whether it's next year or 15 years in the future, I will add more instability to the system. My time here has been longer than the summer volunteers, but I wonder how much good we do. I have to believe that the benefits we help bring outweigh the cost of this unstable system. Have to hope that my presence for two years is more meaningful than the absence I replaced. Have to trust that someone else will fill in the void I leave.
TFA is sometimes said to stand for "Teach for Awhile." The program's only been at my school for 3 years. One-third of the first corps has stayed for their third year. And even leaving after two years we are more constant than the one year teachers who were here before us. Still, I'm afraid of this system that says, it's okay to be here a little while. A little while may be better than never, but some days I'm not sure.