Ms. Strawberry Fields

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Sep 26 2010

Those Kids Do Stand A Chance

It’s 12:55 am on a Saturday night. If this was a year ago I would probably be drunk, shoving a deliciously greasy slice of pizza down my throat before I waddled back to my apartment and passed out. This year, 12:55 am means I should already have been asleep 4 hours ago because tomorrow is Sunday, the day every week on which I have so much crap to do that I don’t know why I even bother sleeping because it’s never going to get done.

The reason I’m up so late? I went to my very first concert in the Bay Area! Since it’s late and I do truly need to go to bed, I’m writing this stream of conscious and not editing it ever (because obviously I need to get to bed tonight and if I don’t edit it tonight there will never be time… so please forgive the typos and poor grammar). So I went to see Vampire Weekend at the Greek Theater in Berkley and oh my goodness to just be sitting and watching real humans play excellent music while I sat amongst thousands of other fans was so normalizing. I felt like me, minus the whole mental flashes back and forth between loving the concert and then daydreaming about how I look standing in front of my classes and I must look just miserable and why do I do this job when I could always be happy enjoying concerts… yada yada yada.

Anyways, a Vampire Weekend review roundup: this was the third time I’ve seen them and like always they do a great job playing their songs, but they’re not that engaging on stage, so it’s not too surprising when a solid 5-10% of the crowd begins to trickle out before the encore. On other notes: I never noticed before how bassist Chris Baio moves his legs in the most extraordinarily odd patterns while performing. It had my friends and I captivated. Also, this was my first time hearing a crowd cheer when ‘California’ was sung in a song. Even more strange, when lead singer Ezra Koenig was singing “Walcott” and no one made a peep when he sang ‘all the way to New Jersey, all the way to the Garden State’ because I’m used to the NY/NJ crowds going nuts over the shout out.

But, what really had me thinking all night was the fact that Ezra Koenig was a Teach For America corps member for one year before VW took off. He was in the NYC corps and taught 8th grade English in Brooklyn and OH MY GOODNESS all the questions I would die to ask him (though this interview does a nice job):

  • How did you manage teaching and practicing? Which corners did you cut as a teacher, because I can’t figure out which ones to put on hold?!:
  • What did it feel like to go from working hard for the most under-served kids to working hard for the richest white kids?
  • Even tonight you kept referring to the crowd as ‘Berkley’ but then acknowledged that the crowd might also have been from Palo Alto or Marin… ain’t no TFAers up in those ‘hoods. No shout outs to East Palo Alto or Richmond? I’m not surprised, it’s just surprising that you sing about ‘bleeding madress’ and ‘the colors of bennetton’ and wrote these songs before or while you were teaching the Brooklyn hoodlums.
  • To this end, do you think you exemplify this major criticism of TFA–– that TFA does not send successful minority minds to teach up and coming minority minds and therefore sending the whities has less of an impact? To be fair, I feel that way sometimes…
  • What was the break up with TFA like? Did they hate you? I mean, by that point hadn’t you already graced the cover of Spin?
  • Are you still in touch with any TFAers?
  • Please comment on your experience in the classroom… and be honest.
  • If VW fell apart and you had to change careers… would you go back to the classroom?
  • Have you done any education work since? Like donated to a foundation/school/visited the PS where you worked? Because I think it’s fair to say that most anyone who was at one time a part of TFA has a passion for education and while I’m struggling to survive here, I do feel as though I’ll never completely give it up. I’ll always in some capacity try to help improve education for our youths. So have you done anything with Save the Music or something of the sort? If not, do you ever think you might?
  • And of course, you know some––dare I say a lot of?–– people in high places in the music industry… do you think one of them will want an Ivy grad and TFA alum in 2 years to do something awesome for them? I’d even gladly accept even the job of tour manager for the worst band on the label on a 3 city tour that includes stops include Flint, MI, Lancaster, PA and Stamford, CT…

Anyways, it was just so delightful to spend a day in San Francisco and see a concert. Of course I did this all at the expense of working and prepping for the upcoming week which means tomorrow is going to be a nightmare. However, work/life balance! I should not be working 13 days straight. I deserve a day off. And I took one, so there. I’m not going to feel guilty about it as I go to bed tonight… However, I can’t make any promises as I’m crying over the photocopying machine at 10am tomorrow.

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