After days of sorting through receipts and documents last week and two hours today, my income taxes are filed! I went to H&R Block for the first time (long story), and my tax preparer was a former lawyer, a little heavyset, spotty gray mustache, wearing a green oxford shirt and striped tie of black, blue, and silver. He was chatty, too, becoming inquisitive when he saw our TIAA-CREF 1099-Rs, and asked where and what we’d taught. I explained my teaching saga – editing and journalism at NYU – and he inveighed against the poor writing of most young people today. But not his daughters, he hastened to add; they went to Brearley, which emphasized writing, so its students were at least adequate writers, and at best superior ones. Then he let me know that his younger daughter was in Turkey for her junior year and really loved the country, even though most tourists didn’t go there, preferring Paris or London. I chimed in that my daughter had gone to Turkey a few years ago and also loved it.
Then he told me that his older daughter was in her second year of Teach for America in an inner-city school in St. Louis, and that now she understood how privileged she had been. The district she’d been assigned to had lost its accreditation, and in its reorganization, her high school had been designated college-prep STEM. But the school had no language teachers. Since she was a French teacher, she became the head of the language department of one, until the school hired an experienced Spanish teacher.
His daughter isn’t going to make a career of teaching, but she’s become very interested in education policy, a trajectory too many Teach for America participants take. Does it really help schools that most need good, committed teachers to bring in recent college graduates for two years, then have them leave to be replaced by another cohort of two-year teachers? There is so much more I would have liked to know about this young woman’s experience, besides her learning that teaching is really hard. But my tax time was up and other clients were waiting.