So many blog post ideas have come into my brain and then gone out of it again that my brain is starting to feel like airport security. Only my brain is not as effective as airport security because the ideas seem to be coming and going pretty freely.
Mark and I have wanted to move back up to the Twin Cities in Minnesota for a little over a year now. The reason we’ve been so slow to actually make the move, however, is that we only kind of wanted to move. Every time we found ourselves on the verge of making the decision to move back, something would stop us. Friends. A job that I love. An impending and potentially financially stressful mission trip. A church we were excited about being involved in, where we felt that we were seeing God at work in cool ways.
But last August, kind of on a whim (but with Mark’s knowledge and blessing), I applied for a program called Teach For America. If you look at their website for about a minute, you’ll see what they’re all about: giving all children, no matter their socioeconomic background, a good education.
Teach For America (TFA) recruits members (they call them ‘corps members’) and then place the people they recruit in struggling schools around the U.S. The people they place do not need to have teaching licenses at the start of their two-year commitment to TFA but will take classes throughout the two years to get licensed. TFA also provides tons of training and resources before corps members are placed in schools and once they start teaching to help corps members succeed as teachers.
It’s a pretty sweet deal. It’s a sweet deal for the corps members because they get their teaching license and experience at the same time, so they don’t face the same dilemma that recent graduates with a teaching license face. TFA also has a very good reputation, so to be able to put TFA on a resume is pretty nice. It’s also a sweet deal for TFA. Because their reputation is so good and their corps member benefits are so good, they attract a huge crowd of applicants and then they’re free to pick and choose the cream of the crop. It’s a sweet deal for the kids in the schools too. The corps members chosen by TFA are all very driven to see their students excel in school and beat all of the horrible odds that are stacked against them because of the social injustices of our country.
Anyway, you can probably guess where I’m going with this—much to my surprise, when I applied for TFA, I was invited back for a phone interview. I was further surprised to be invited back to a final interview. And I was completely and utterly flabbergasted (how do you like that for a word?) to be offered a position with TFA in the Twin Cities teaching ESL in an elementary classroom starting this fall.
I got this news on January 7, and the next few days were full of conversation and speculation between me and Mark as to what TFA would mean for us, if I were to accept their offer. We came up with a number of effects, both positive and negative, TFA would have on us and our future plans:
1) We would have a good reason to move up to the Twin Cities where
a. we would be closer to family (see our motivation here)
b. Mark would hopefully have more opportunities to advance a career in music
c. we would be closer to college friends
d. we would be able to cross-country ski in the winter instead of being blown to death by icy gale-force winds
2) I would get my teaching license and be able to teach in a school, which is something I’ve wanted to do pretty much since I graduated from college (yeah, I know, obviously I didn’t think through my college education very clearly when I started).
3) One of our dreams has been to live in the city and minister to the people we by – TFA recommends that you live where your students live and get to know them and their families outside of school. In this case, TFA’s desires were directly in line with desire of our own.
4) I will most likely receive a $4,500 education grant both years that I am a TFA corps member. Since I’ll have to be taking classes to get my teaching license, these grants will probably not help with current loans, but they will also probably prevent us from incurring further education debt.
5) I will be very busy. TFA doesn’t hide the fact that the two years as a TFA corps member are very busy. TFA expects you to give your all to the students you serve. My personality is that of a perfectionist (sigh—not always a good thing for me), so it will be easy for me to fall into giving too much to teaching and too little to Mark. And the other people I love.
6) Because of the reason above and because we’re leaning toward domestic adoption, we will probably not be able to start an adoption until my two years are almost up. That does make me kind of sad. I’ve had my heart set on parenting for two years already and now it will be another two years before we have even the possibility of starting our family. Ouch. Ouchouchouch.
7) However, both Mark and I acknowledge that at the end of my two years with TFA, we will be more financially stable than we are right now. I will have my teaching license and a few years of experience. Mark will hopefully have been able to begin his career in music recording and production. And we will have our school loans almost all paid off, or maybe completely paid off. In my mind, that would be a much healthier environment to start an adoption anyway.
So, all things considered, we came to agreement, and I accepted the position with TFA. I’m so excited about teaching ESL and about moving back up to the Twin Cities.
In order for me to participate in all that TFA offers, like teach, I need to take and pass the MTLE tests, the Minnesota Teacher Licensure Examinations. These are tests that those aspiring to teach in Minnesota usually take after having taken certain courses in university. TFA apparently has such a high opinion of its corps members that they assume corps members will be able to study for and pass the exams without having taken the classes.
Usually they’re right, it looks like, with I think around 80-90% of corps members passing the tests on the first try. But that doesn’t assure me, and that’s the reason I was crying over oatmeal on Saturday morning. And that’s the reason I haven’t written any blog posts in the last two weeks. I’ve been tracking down study materials and studying.
I’m sure you’ve all read enough of my blather for one day, so I won’t force you endure descriptions of the tests I need to take or the measures I’m going to studying for them. Maybe another day, but not today.
Suffice it to say, if I can pass these exams in a month, then big changes are coming for me and Mark!