In one long stretch we battled the traffic of LA and entered the saguaro-studded desert where education first reached our hearts. We got farther from lush hills and life-sustaining waters and closer to our first students, our earliest teaching memories, our meeting place and our home of sorts – Phoenix, Arizona….
We set up our table outside of the very dining hall where we went through our own Teach For America institute four years ago, recalling many experiences in that place that jumpstarted our early beliefs about education and our practice with students. It was illuminating to see how much our peers, Teach For America and we ourselves had grown since then. The Phoenix corps was wading through the fierce heat with admirable pizzaz. In their last week of summer school, corps members were alive with excitement about their students, their growth as burgeoning teachers and the upcoming transition to their placements in Colorado, Hawaii, Indianapolis, New Mexico, Phoenix and South Dakota. These teachers were impassioned by the lightbulbs that were going on in their summer school classrooms when they challenged their students to articulate their own perspectives as well as meet determined objectives while engaging in material that was relevant to their lives. Already these teachers were realizing that their students would need to learn skills in conjunction with rather than at the expense of learning to express themselves and think critically – to grow who they are in the classroom as well as what they know. For this reason they were excited about bringing United Classrooms into their practice and we were enthused to see them waking up to this essential part of their educational philosophies so early on.
We crossed the 600 sign-up mark and closed our time in Phoenix by taking some of Zak’s old students out for lunch – marveling at how much it all matters.