Sharing my everydays…

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Apr 22 2012

my diversity story…

One of Teach For America’s core values is diversity and that means we get to talk about it which isn’t exactly my favorite thing. Yesterday morning we had one of our monthly Saturday sessions of professional development. The agenda was pretty open that we would be discussing diversity. It’s not the first time. Actually its one of the core values that I think we tend to talk about the most. I was dreading it. A lot of times diversity talks are either cliche and superficial or just end up in arguments and upset a lot of people. I generally keep my mouth shut because I don’t actually like upsetting people.


TFA generally sticks to the idea that diversity is important. Their public statement tends to say that everyone can be a great teacher but corps members who share a cultural background or race with their students are able to have an additional impact in the classroom. This is often hard to stomach being a white girl who grew up on a farm and has close to absolutely nothing culturally in common with her students. I’ve heard that message a lot and though it still stings a little bit each time it’s said, I don’t necessarily disagree with it. Today however I actually started to understand within myself why it never sits well in my stomach.


In the process of applying to TFA, I got to preference locations. This is something I spent a decent amount of time debating over. Being the true type A person I am, I even had a spreadsheet that allowed for an analysis on at least eight different categories for each of the 40+ regions. A few of the regions are in rural locations, and I had a lot of conversations in my own head over these areas. I often wondered if I should preference the rural areas because I would have at least a small piece of shared background with my student. I know what its like to grow in the in the middle of nowhere and that is a little something to connect on.


I however decided that I didn’t want to continue living in a rural area. This was my time to move to the big city, to live on the coast, to see something new and different, to live the life I dreamed about as a little girl. I wanted that more, so I preferenced the east coast locations. I was adamant about not telling anyone my exact preference list, and I still haven’t shared that. I had various justifications for the decision at the time. Still I have often said that if you have to hide something you’re doing, there’s probably something wrong with it.  Only now of course I realize that idea is pretty applicable to my preference list as well. I made my list for entirely selfish reasons, and I disregarded the thoughts of where I could be a great teacher and the thoughts of my future students. Ultimately diversity talks, I have a feeling, will always remind me of my selfishness and how I actively choose not to share any sort of cultural background with my students.


I know I’m being hard on myself and ultimately it was just a list that TFA still held the final decision over. Nevertheless it’s a feeling that I face and probably a good reminder to keep my intentions in check.

3 Responses

  1. Alisha

    Teach For America is in itself a selfless act…you have to allow yourself a little give and take in that process. Are you happy where you are at? Would you have been dissappointed in a rural region? In the end you are a better teacher if you are happier and if you end up liking the region instead of being miserable and that helps you decide to stay longer than ultimately that was a better thing. Isn’t is also great for students to be exposed to different kinds of people and backrounds too? There are too many things in life (especially in teaching) to feel guilty about, don’t beat yourself up over this!

    • parus

      Joining TFA is not selfless. TFA’s major recruiting points include all the scholarship and job opportunities open to TFAers after they finish their two years, and as a TFAer you get the same salary as every other first-year school teacher, as well as full benefits. It’s a job. It’s a job where you can do some good things, but it’s a job.

  2. parus

    Choosing a region where you’d be happy was a good idea. You shouldn’t feel guilty about it.

    If you are feeling bad about the lack of cultural commonality between yourself and your students, then put more effort into understanding your students’ cultures, and making your classroom relevant and inviting with respect to that. You will have to work harder at it than someone from the students’ community would, but that is a responsibility you took on by accepting a job there. Channel that White Guilt into something useful.

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