Thursday, March 1, 2012


“The leap is so frightening between where I am and where I want to be. Because of all I may become, I will close my eyes and jump.”

I read this on a TFA blog about reflecting on the whole process of becoming a teacher. 

So much of teaching and leadership is truly that leap of faith – in yourself, that you can do it; and in others, that they may follow.

You all know how much I love teaching… but last night’s class was great because I didn’t do any teaching – I just got to sit back and watch. Honestly, I actually felt myself tear up at times watching so much greatness in our class. I felt really proud to work with such an awesome group of people.

In Audra, I can see the classroom teacher that she was and the amazing doctor that she will be. I think about how lucky Scot’s kids are to have such a focused and organized teacher… and what an amazing difference Amy will make with her ability to create such a clear and inspiring vision for her students and where that will lead her after getting an MPH. I thought about Lauren’s dedication to her corps members and their students and how much owns her role as a leader of teachers.

I thought about:
·   Alice starting to use her “teacher voice” in class (with a soft smile).
·   Sarah reconciling her previous experiences as a boarding school teacher compared to an inner-city classroom.
·   Lolly ready to change the world through PreK health ed.
·   Erin, newly introduced to backwards planning, describing several lesson objectives and methods for assessment.
·   The way many of you have started to refer to the TFA students as “my kids.”

In short, I see leaders: smart and passionate people who are outraged by inequality and are motivated to do something to change it. As we talked about last night, transformational leadership starts with a vision and an in-depth understanding of context: where are we now and where do we want to be?

And then there are the strategies to get from here to there. Those skills can be learned. But what really makes the difference is the willingness to take that leap – to decide to grow into the person you can become if you are willing to take a huge risk.

At some point in my life I realized that there were people behind me who believed I could do things I didn’t think I could do.  That gave me the confidence to take some risks I probably would not have taken otherwise. I would not be where I am now without those people in my life who encouraged me to close my eyes and take that leap.

In short, Classroom to Community would not be happening without that influence in my life because I would have been too scared to try something with so much potential to be great (or to fail, depending on how you look at it).

The best part of this class is that I get to be one of those people that can see all that potential in each of you. I get to see you realize that in yourselves and learn how to foster that in others – a spark into a flame into a torch to guide a greater vision.

Teach like you’re on fire. Lead like that’s the only place you gotta go.

Close your eyes and jump.

And that’s why I Teach For America.

- Ariela Freedman


  1. Ariela, Thank you (and Lauren and Audra) for that vote of confidence, for modeling excellent leadership, and for continuing to push all of us towards excellence in teaching and leadership!

  2. This also goes back to the excerpt from "Mindset: The New Psychology of Success" by Carol Dweck that you had us read for our first class. Two different mindsets are defined: the fixed mindset and the open mindset. I think many of us (myself included) identify with the fixed mindset in that we feel as though we have to prove ourselves and be ready with an exact plan for success before we start anything new. But with teaching (and any form of leadership) it is important to consider having a growth mindset in which we are more concerned with improving (even if that involves failure along the way).