I was once told the best way to lose your job is to lie on your resume, so this weekend at the Teach for America 25th Anniversary Summit, when people asked why I chose to join the Milwaukee 2016 Corps, I couldn’t do anything but tell them the truth.
And the trust is that I didn’t choose Milwaukee at all.
Let me paint you a picture: It’s a fall day last year and I’m sitting outside with my fiance Harel on FaceTime. We’re discussing all the possible regions where TFA applicants can be placed, trying to decide the top ten regions to preference.
Or maybe we were inside talking that time? It’s been a long, long year.
Since TFA would be a two-year commitment, we wanted the opportunity to start a life together somewhere where neither one of us would be forced to fit the established frame of the other’s life–so this ruled out most of North Carolina.
But lemme be honest: Teacher pay in NC is not sustainable, nor is school support, nor is LGBTQ protection, nor is the teacher certification process.
So North Carolina legislators are really the ones who knocked NC off the list.
LGBT protection was one of the key factors in our search–we’re an binational, Jewish, gay couple. We both had serious reservations about going any deeper into the South.
(Now I know the South is evolving, and discrimination exists everywhere, but at least being in a state with legal protections is a small comfort, and most of the Southern states can’t even brag about basic rights for LGBT people, ignoring the vicious racism and anti-immigration opinions in certain places–so it was a risk we couldn’t take.)
(Though I also know kids in these places are the most in need of positive queer, minority leaders, but right now, today, I could not be that voice.)
So we went back and forth with all the possible regions. My top choice was probably Washington, DC, and his was Chicago, then Milwaukee. It was unlikely I would be placed in Chicago if accepted, but I put it on the top of the list because I thought it would be an amazing place to teach and live for a few years, unlike anyplace I’ve ever been.
When I was accepted (and ecstatic), the news it was a placement in Milwaukee was rather unsettling–more so than I had expected. I knew nothing about Milwaukee except that Harel had lived their briefly and loved the city. And it has cold winters. That was it.
Part of me even wished I could’ve been placed in DC.
But I read more about Milwaukee before I had to accept my placement, and the more I heard about the city, the more I heard it described with the same words and love that I hear people use to describe Raleigh. That made me more comfortable.
And the more I heard from TFA MKE staff members, the more excited I became.
I met many of them this weekend at the Summit, and within minutes, I felt like a part of the family. I still have yet to be in Milwaukee, but their passion and heartfulness make me happy to be a part of their corps, and the welcoming hand they extended to me, and the inclusiveness I felt–well, I’m more excited to be in Milwaukee now than ever.
So when they asked why Milwaukee, I told them all of this (in a more conversation, bite-sized morsel)–that it hadn’t been my choice, but that the more I learn about the city, the more it feels like home before I’ve even gotten there.
I know my first year as a corps member and MKE teacher will be challenging, and I will struggle and fail and find new ways to build my resilience and support my growth, but I know I’ll have the support I’ll need to serve my kids well, and that’s what matter.
The follow up question was usually if my fiance was a corps member as well or if he’d be joining me to Milkwaukee–and while the former doesn’t apply (at the moment), if things fall into place like we want them to, he’ll be here to make that move to Milwaukee, and we’ll be able to start this chapter of our lives together.
I hope for nothing more than that.