I think I’ve got it figured out. Well, credit really goes to another 2011 Memphis CM but I’ll share it here. I’m convinced that the number 1 thing Teach for America looks for in a CM is non-stop, 100% dogged perseverance. They know they can’t train us the way we need to be trained. They know they can’t support us the way we need to be supported. They know we are going to come upon things we could never imagine. Their insurance against that is that they know (for the most part) that we won’t give up. They choose people who will not stop trying anything, not give up for anything, to continue this work. The passion behind it doesn’t even necessarily have to be student focused; it can just be a refusal to fail. That is what TFA looks for. Those kind of people are the only people who can succeed in this work.
So if you are thinking about applying to Teach for America, think about whether you can give up on something so hard. You are probably not used to failure; most prospective corps members aren’t. But you will fail in this work. You will fail for days and days. Will you be able to keep going? Will you understand that you cannot remain stagnant? Will you be able to seek out the resources that help keep you going? Will you be able to find success through your own hard work, without relying on others? If you answered no to any of those questions, don’t apply. You’ll just hurt our kids when you can’t make it through. If you know that you can find success from failure, welcome to Teach for America.