When I first moved to Tulsa as a Teach For America corps member, I had zero interest in joining Tulsa’s Young Professionals. From what I heard about it, it just wasn’t for me. Now, three years later, I count being a part of TYPros as one of the best decisions I could have made here. After seeing great friends from both TFA and TYPros at the TFA picnic at the Guthrie Green last night, I feel compelled to make the case why you maybe should give TYPros a [second, third?…] chance.
1. You need friends outside of teaching. As tempting as it is to vent about your classroom seven days a week with people that truly understand what you’re going through–which is how I spent two solid years–it will kill you. By no means ditch your awesome teacher friends, but seriously–make it a top priority to spend time with people who have other things to talk about. TYPros is not the only answer to this, but it is the largest organization of young professionals in the country, so it’s not a bad place to start.
2. On a related note, you need to do things outside of teaching. Remember when you had other interests besides education? There’s a lot going on in Tulsa, and your mental health will benefit enormously from you taking time to do other things. I’ve been surprised by the array of events and activities hosted by TYPros. I know the big networking nights were definitely NOT my cup of tea, but I found a small subgroup that likes to nerd out about city planning and was interested in doing a community-building event near my school. Maybe you’d like to go to a DIY workshop on backyard chickens? Or talk to state legislators about the importance of funding K-12? (Okay this is technically still about education, but it’s much different than lesson planning and it leads me to my third point):
3. The outside world needs you. You’re probably new to Oklahoma and might not have a deep understanding yet of how insane the public policy is that comes down from our government 99% of the time. At the same time, you have extremely valuable insight on public education, poverty, and so many other issues here in Oklahoma…insight that many people in the policy arena just THINK they have. You and your fellow non-TFA teachers need to be part of this conversation if we are really going to see positive change in Oklahoma!* Again, TYPros isn’t the only way, but they make it a lot easier to get in front of the policymakers to make your case, whatever it may be. This spring I was making the case for better meeting the needs of ESL students in public schools to the State House Majority Whip. This summer I found myself chairing a subcommittee tasked with drafting the policy position on K-12 education that the whole Tulsa region will use in the next state legislative session.
*Isn’t this why we joined TFA to begin with?!!??!?
All I’m really trying to say is get engaged. Register to vote (and then vote) in Oklahoma. Find a TYPros crew that interests you. Join a church. Join a reading club. Go to a City Council meeting. Find a yoga group. Whatever floats your boat! Tulsa is too great a city for you to spend two years without ever feeling like you lived here, and you’re too awesome for Tulsa to never realize you were here.