Seeking Unity in Variety

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Jun 18 2012

Reality vs. “Positive Messaging”

Now that I know how to actually post I wanted to share this. I wrote this after a negative experience my first night in town but I think it could potentially be useful to future CMs or anyone heading out to induction or institute this summer.


Yesterday was our induction welcome dinner. It was fantastic! The elementary choir that sang for us was one of the most adorable things I have ever seen. Our executive director is also a very talented motivational speaker. He definitely captured and amplified the passion everyone had to serve the Chicago community.

However, after the welcome dinner a few CMs decided to go to a bar down the street (which was suggested by someones TTL). It was about a 10 minute walk so we decided to all walk there together. Just as we crossed the street from campus a police officer pulled over and the following conversation ensued…

Police Officer: Are you guys with Teach for America?
Corps cohort: Yes!
Police Officer:Do you have ANY idea where you are going?
Corps cohort: Yes! To the bar right down the street! Here is the address!
Police Officer: Look, these are the projects. You can’t be here.
Corps cohort: I mean its right down the street..
Police Officer: They WILL rob you.
**Awkward pause as everyone wondered if the cop was just one of the insensitive negative Nancys we had been warned about or actually telling the truth**
Corps cohort: Okay, I guess we will go back.

Shortly after that a cop (with a bullet proof vest) was stationed at the corner to ward off other CMs.

"Hey, I've got a bunch of obliviously privileged kids trying to walk through the projects. Over."

I understand that TFA is trying to break down the misconceptions that some CMs could potentially hold against their students by talking about these areas through rosy glasses, but I feel like safety should still be a priority. It doesn’t take a very long stroll down the TFA parking lot to realize that most of us are not from around here. Surely there was an opportunity to warn us that the area across the street from the parking lot was extremely dangerous. I know it is something we should face and be familiar with, but I don’t think TFA should turn a blind eye and let us stumble upon it ourselves. The first thing most schools in urban areas (so I’ve been told) or study abroad programs do is discuss safety issues. Why shouldn’t that apply to us?

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June 2012