Teachin' Spanish For America

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Apr 21 2011

The Job Search (Wait), Ethnic Studies, Death By Thesis

I decided to force myself to post here as a break from my thesis.  Right now, I have just woken up from a three hour nap that was the first time I slept in two days.  I have been horrifically sick, and so to take advantage of that I have only been eating these granola bars that I don’t particularly like and bought on accident one time–because now I can’t taste them.  I eat, sleep, and dream my thesis.  I live and die my thesis, and I most certainly cry my thesis.  This is all exacerbated by the fact that I spend twenty hours a day reading about torture and women who have survived it or whose children have not survived it.  Basically this was supposed to be done Monday but with this cold I’ve been struggling and it’s been making me pretty loopy.  If I’m not done by the end of this week, I don’t know what I’ll do.

Something that has slightly more to do with Teach For America.  Something that I have been following, first for personal interest reasons, then for an Argument class I’m taking, and then again out of interest–is anyone following the state of ETHNIC STUDIES in Arizona currently?  If you’re not, essentially what has happened is a law has been passed to ban classes that “Advocate ethnic solidarity instead of treatment of pupils as individuals,” “Promote resentment toward a race or class of people,” “Promote the overthrow of the United States government,” or “Are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group.”  Now, all of these sound like pretty terrible things.  I for one would be upset by a class promoting the overthrow of the USG.  But here’s the kicker: Arizona has actually managed to convince itself that the Mexican-American Studies programs in Tucson are in violation of this law.  Seriously.  So they’re shutting down the whole operation.  Reasons that they believe this to be true include that one of their textbooks is written by a Marxist (!!) and that they used the word “La Raza” one time to describe the content of a class.  They are also upset that the students are taught such HISTORICAL FACTS as the real way we got a huge portion of the Southwest US (i.e., we stole it from Mexico.  Haha, Mexico, haha.).  The classes are open to any and all students, and do not do ANY of the things that this law describes.  It is another infuriating instance of racism with far-reaching implications that scare me.

So Tuesday night was the Newark “On-Boarding Call” (cute, Newark staff ;]) and we had quite a bit of information thrown at us.  I kind of like that though, because any presentation that comes with a Powerpoint is good by me and because I’m craving information about this whole process to assuage my feelings of trepidation about this new direction I’m going off in.  It was really great to hear from a teach in the classroom and be able to ask her some questions.  Turns out the Newark Corps is going to be comparatively HUMONGOUS this year, which is awesome and inspiring and all of that. Also there is going to be a second alternative certification track “unveiled” tomorrow?  Looking forward to seeing my options!

Speaking of option, TFA rocks.  I submitted my transitional funding request like two days ago (in a state of delirium) and I checked back today just for the heck of it and they had already processed my request.  The grant/loan package that they gave me was very reasonable and I’m very grateful to be going to work for a company with offerings such as that (as well as paying for my room and board during Induction/Institute/Orientation) to really make it viable to do something like this–and in a way that’s fairly hassle-free and transparent.  So thanks, Teach For America!

I know that I shouldn’t, but I am starting to get worried about jobs.  It’s only the start of interview season, but several people I know and several people here are already in the swing of interviewing (and I’m happy for and proud of them!).  I love interviewing, weirdly, and I really think that it’s something that I do well–an underrated skill, if you will.  I’m just getting antsy to start getting out there and seeing what different interviewing processes are like–my better half and I both hope that when I move in I’ll have some sort of idea what’s going on!

My situation is a little different from many of the Corps members in my region, it seems.  It’s awesome that so many are from New Jersey, some from in the same town or just one over from where my boyfriend lives.  But my taking this job was with the understanding  that I’ll be commuting from the mutual home of myself and said boyfriend–so I’ll be doing a pretty long commute for the first month or so regardless, while we wait for J’s lease to run out, and then we’re going to attempt to find a mutually convenient place to settle down.  Either way it’s probably going to be a longish drive, though I really want to take the train (New Jersey Transit isn’t bad); which county I get put into has impacts on whether I lease or buy a car, what kind of car, etc., and I can’t really plan anything.  Planning Limbo is my least favorite of places to be.

All that said, I am aching to meet my kids.  I want to know how old they’ll be most of all, so that I can start thinking about lessons and their needs and desires and how to engage them and what have you.  Excited.  Anxious.  Ready.  Completely, totally unprepared.  Ahhhh.

So, here’s to finishing this thesis, sleeping in a bed and not on the floor of the debate lounge (where I keep pillows and a toothbrush; what a faithful lover the debate lounge is), and to productive coughs that do more harm than hurt.  Here’s to figuring out my life over the next couple of months and to meeting my kids.

And here’s to acceptance and cultural balance, and never being ashamed or pushed away from learning, understanding, knowledge, the hard questions.


8 Responses

  1. erinkay

    The Arizona situation is certainly scary. I actually know two teachers in Arizona and they are equally disturbed by this.

    I am a terrible person and I completely forgot about my onboarding call- whoops. Luckily, the registration was still open so I signed up for the next slot. TFA must think I’m a huge dud.

    How is this new certification track being unveiled? TFANet? E-mail blast? I feel like other regions are ahead of us in this area…

    I think those of us with interviews is just dumb luck and availability, not a reflection on your desirability. Maybe they are also taking into account that you are still out of state? Either way- don’t sweat it, you have so much on your plate right now!

    I’m glad to hear that you will have a place in NJ immediately and don’t have to go through the apartment-search hassle right away. I was going to ask if you needed a place to stay during Induction.

    Glad to see your update- not glad to see the state of your health. Try to quiet your mind and get some sleep. You already made it into TFA, relax!

    Sending successful thesis vibes your way!

    • Ahaha, it’s cool, I was on a bus (from New Jersey, ironically) while the call was going on so I kept losing service and having to call back in–and the whole conference call hears a “beep” when someone new enters the call. It was embarrassing, but at least no one knew it was me :)

      They said to check out TFANet about the non-Seton Hall night class certification track. I’m surprised that it wasn’t up when I checked right after posting this entry, though. Maybe they’ll send out an email to be safe…

      It’s very true that if I did start getting interviews now I would be totally unprepared to even think about switching my life over to that. Thanks :) That actually really made me feel better…

      I also appreciate the willingness to offer a place to stay!! Interestingly, they’re providing us housing for Induction at Rutgers. I don’t know which Rutgers you go to? But obviously the Newark one is to be our home sweet home for the week!

      I’m finishing up the thesis tonight (hopefully, theoretically…) and then basically going to sleep until next Wednesday, which is my thesis defense. Thanks for the positive words! :)

  2. akeeba

    I hadn’t heard about the situation in Arizona. Yet another way to prevent people from learning about their history in order to get to a better future. Here on the east coast they do it a little differently – they’ve been pulling funding from ethnic studies departments at my alma mater Univ of MD for a few years, sucking out all the resources. They also removed the leader of the division for equity & diversity who was a great advocate for the glbt, minority, and women’s community. After student organized protests got us nowhere everything died down and they went about everything as planned. I boycotted my graduation but I don’t think they noticed! Hopefully the students in Arizona will have better success. Good luck on your thesis!!

    • See, I’m on the East Coast, and I hadn’t heard about all the stuff going on near you. I’m in Ithaca, which (despite having its problems, as all places have) is sort of an acceptance oasis for some (especially stuck in the heart of rural-conservative upstate NY). While my soon-to-be alma mater is lacking in the diversity department, I like to think we’re not lacking in the acceptance department–and our programs in that vein tend to be well-funded and received. Really sorry to here about U of MD :\ Keep up with the situation in Arizona if you get a chance, it’s really horrifying. Check out adrilicious’ posts below for yet another Arizona doozy.

      And thank you!!

  3. adrilicious

    Arizona is a hot mess. In addition to the the crazytown ban on ethnic studies, which doesn’t make any time of sense because all studies are ethnic studies of one kind or another, they’ve also passed a law prevented folks with accents from teaching. In Arizona it’s really a state government led attack on brown folks 24/7. Glad you’re upset about this and informing your teaching and your desire to face the tough questions.

    However, as someone who is only alive because of ethnic solidarity and is afforded certain rights in this country because of historial struggles directly based in ethnic solidarity, I fail to see teaching ethnic solidarity as a ‘terrible thing.’ I also feel like it’s totally appropriate to design both curriculum and activities specifically for students of color rather than hegemonic (read: white middle class) American culture.

    Still, I’m really glad you brought all this up, good for me to think about it, talk about and hear about it.

    • I think, besides being a sort of wry off-handed comment about the alarmist wording of this bill (really? these people are professionals?) I was more saying that exclusionism is a terrible thing, which these classes are not. I agree with you that ethnic solidarity, and ethnicity-based curriculum/activities can be highly positive. But if these people are worried about being Latino as being one of the prereqs of the course, I’m just saying, well, you’re wrong. I do agree with you on this point, I just perhaps was not as clear as I should have been.

  4. adrilicious

    one last note: i should have written that i fail to see that teaching / discussing ethnic solidarity to / with students of color to make myself explicitly clear (because there’s a huge difference in White Pride and Mexican Pride).

    Also – I think, because of your outrage towards Arizona, among other reasons, you’ll be a great Spanish teacher.

    Lastly – keep up the good work on the thesis! I worked in a cooperative that sold baked goods to the Madres – there’s amazing and I’m sure you’ll do them justice.

    • Re: your note, I agree. I think that that line is what is being toed here. I just can’t get over the brazen insertion of white pride into SOP in this instance. I know it happens, but the cojones is what gets me. Even the phrasing–advocating color blindness (not a good idea to begin with) but really just advocating whitewashing–just wow. And now I’m doing some more reading about the accent thing–thanks for the head’s up!

      And thanks (x2)! I had the opportunity to interview them when I lived in Argentina and basically it changed my life. And I miss Argentina’s baked goods :)

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