Monday, June 19, 2006

Downfall of a Cynic (?)

Today I sat in attendance with 1900 other New York City Teaching Fellows, a captive audience before the orientation assembly in Lincoln Center. A Necessary evil, at best, but more likely three hours of bureaucratic speeches about the worth and value of teachers, while the widespread low compensation of public school instructors is silently and cheerfully glossed over. Call me bitter, but doesn’t putting on a whole shin-dig in the Lincoln Center for nearly two-thousand, complete with tuxedoed ushers, cost a pretty tax-payer’s penny? And I can’t help but feel a scant ounce of vinegar when I know I’ll only be given $150 for the school year to supply my students, but whatever, there’s nothing I can do about it. This time.

So, the auditorium is packed, folks even on the balcony, and the show begins. And what a show it is. It starts out innocuously enough with a few stuffed-well wishers. A constant refrain of how we are joining the “noble profession.” This from plenty of folks who aren’t teachers, the president of Wachovia Bank included.

But, gradually there was a change in me. Whoever planned this whole Welcome Ceremony was very slick. They brought out The Big Guns, starting is PS7’s Cheerleader squad, fresh out of Harlem. And while I’m not impressed with *any* cheerleaders, this troupe were amazing with their earnest joy of movement…and knowing that the only reason why the Red Tigers had a cheerleading squad was due to a Teaching Fellow taking the initiative to stay after school for training and fundraising for costumes. I felt a small crack in my collectedness.

It gets worse. The South Bronx choir, led by a first year Fellow sang What a Wonderful World with the style and sass that only an 11 year old from the Bronx could. “And I think to myself. Mm, What a wonderful world.” Complete with a saucy stance and gesticulation, I nearly lost it at that point. But I would lose it later; all my cynicism, coolness, and realism would crash around me and I’d join the ranks of the hopeful and (god help me) idealistic.

The final nail in the coffin was the Essay Readers. Students who spoke on what made a teacher memorable, and how their instructor’s touched their lives. I was broken, I was warm, I was One with the other 1900 idealistic, save-the-world hopefuls who had come to NYC to make a difference. And horrified, I figured I could make a difference too. I had not only infiltrated the hippie compound, but have fallen under its spell.

Tomorrow starts classes, and I begin the three year push to my MA. I don’t miss Corporate America at all. (Well, maybe the free coffee.)


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