It has been more than a decade since I became a teacher in Baltimore. As I tell anyone who will listen, it was by far the most difficult challenge of my life. No other endeavor has required as much of me as often—and it’s not even close. Somehow, in the midst of struggling to be a teacher, I also completed the greatest side project of my life, which was my public journal of my teaching experience.
I began the journal right after Induction, our official welcome to Teach For America Baltimore. After that was the 5-week Institute, an intense boot camp that comprised most of our pre-job training. Then I was a professional teacher.
I wasn’t able to write at a constant pace, but I believe I managed to never let a month pass without a something published. I found writing cathartic, and I’m also really grateful to my younger self for preserving such a comprehensive log of those two most chaotic and impactful years of my life.
I recall my main purpose in writing publicly was keeping people who knew me informed of my new life. It saved quite a bit of effort. I didn’t publicize the existence of my writing as I was doing it, but neither did I attempt to keep it private. Knowing it could easily be found, my core principles were:
- Be truthful at all times.
- As I asked no one’s permission to be in my writings, everyone I allude to, individually or as part of a group, must feel I’ve treated them in the best possible light.
Yet, the environment does not always bring out the best in people. Many things I experienced were not compatible with both of these principles, and do not show up in this journal. So suffice it to say the highest points—and there were many moments of joy—are significantly better represented than the lowest ones. On the other hand, that’s just my perspective, and I’m not always a “glass half full” kind of guy. All this to say, just keep in mind that this story true, but it is incomplete and biased for reasons intentional and unconscious.
(Incidentally, my administration did discover the journal while I was still working as a teacher. They expressed concern for my general own state of mind, but they didn’t ask me to stop or change my process in any way.)
I’d like to think that my two year teaching career was a net benefit to my students. However, I can’t possibly know whether that’s true. I only know that it radically broadened my perspective, and I’m immensely grateful for that. I have come to realize that not a whole lot of people know what inner city teaching is like that haven’t done the job themselves. I hope this series helps bridge that gap.