Day One Cometh

What a week this has been. With summer bridge out of the way, I’ve finally had a chance to step back and look at the big picture. I have both a monumental opportunity and a monumental challenge ahead of me. I bounce back and forth between feeling exuberant and overwhelmed.

I know I mentioned this before, but I really want to reiterate that our staff here is the most diverse, dedicated, and capable group I have ever worked with. We’ve got an incredible mixture of veterans, relative neophytes, and brand new folks (like me). We spent most of Tuesday and Wednesday working on our mission and vision statements for the school. Never before have I found so much meaning and felt so much ownership in working on mission and vision statements. It felt real, and it was clear that all of us are really personally invested in making FAST a top-caliber school. We didn’t finish the vision statement, but our mission statement is something we spent a lot of time crafting, and that I think we all internalized. I’ll post it when I get a copy of the draft.

As awesome as that experience was, it feels like our reality is already not representing our dream. The CEO of schools and the mayor’s office have a lot riding on our success, and they are coming to our opening day ceremony. I wish I could say I felt like we are anywhere close to being prepared.

Physically speaking, our school is still a mess. We inherited a building that was a pretty big disaster, and that had been looted for most of its items of value. It’s come a loooong way, but it’s still nowhere close to looking like any school I experienced growing up. Not to mention the logistics are up in the air. school starts in less than 36 hours, and we still have no official schedule. It’s pretty hard for me to design lessons or a yearlong plan when I don’t know how much instructional time I have.

On a less immediate level, I have serious concerns about other aspects of the school. As of now, the students have no choice in their schedule. They move from class to class as a group, all levels in the same class. In addition, there currently are no foreign language classes.

Our plans for this school are downright audacious. We plan to have and use the most cutting-edge technology in every classroom. We plan to offer AP class to all grade levels. We are working to partner with University of Maryland to allow juniors and seniors to split time between our campus and theirs, so that they can literally start college before leaving high school. Right now, it’s awfully hard to see the path from here to there. At the same time, I remember reading One Day, All Children by Wendy Kopp, the story of the founding of TFA and its tumultuous (to say the least) early years. To summarize, Wendy graduated from Princeton with a crazy idea to start a national teacher corps, and through absurd determination, awesome personnel, and absolute refusal to dilute her vision, managed to build the program from an extremely shaky start into the national institution it is today. Through those same traits, I have faith that we can turn FAST into to something awesome too. I feel blessed to be here. And also just slightly scared to death.

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