Who Do You Play For?

Author: Tory Lang | MTR Class of 2016

On Friday, May 20, the MTR Class of 2016 celebrated their Union University graduation and completion of the Residency Year at the MTR Victory Party. Family and friends flooded in from across the nation to support and celebrate the accomplishments and commitment of the 2016s. Tory Lang, MTR c/o 2016, made the following Resident Address.

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you family and friends for traveling from near and far to join us for our victory party. I asked my fellow residents to share words that they felt described this last year of our lives, and I’ve tried to incorporate some of them into this address so that each of our voices can be heard, shared, and remembered to reflect this glorious and beautiful struggle of a year. As I mention them, you’ll see them pop up on the screen.

MTR Resident Address

As Tory recited her address, words submitted by other residents and incorporated into the speech appeared on the screen.

The last time the majority of us were in this room, was almost exactly a year ago: May 28, 2015. We all remember this exact date since its permutation enables us 24/7 access to one of the greatest assets of residency year: unlimited printing. #blessed But really. That was the evening of our Welcome Dinner. We stood on this stage and announced with pride to the immense sea of people who we were, where we came from, what school we graduated from. We hadn’t seen the inspiring hockey movie Miracle en masse yet, so we didn’t know that we’d ultimately have to also answer the question: Who do you play for?

But on that first day of this transformative adventure, we were in this very room.

Later that week, again in this very room, we would learn the unforgettable names of Josh-Mo-Josh and Shelley-Ellie-Molly-Mary. We would eat Holiday Ham for the first of many times and create life maps. Telling our story to one another and listening to where each other came from and the lengths God had taken to bring us all there to that moment as we embarked on the hardest but most joyful year of our lives.

MTR Class of 2016 Orientation picture

MTR Class of 2016 on the first day of Orientation.

We have acquired so much more to add to our life maps in these last 358 days. We’ve loaded our bookshelves and brains with 16 different texts. We’ve developed and practiced strategies for both the classroom and for life that encompassed everything we didn’t know we needed. We’ve gained deliverance from the double life of an almost full-time classroom teacher and an actual full-time graduate student. Those summer days of we-actually-had-so-much-time-how-could-we-have-been-complaining-so-much seem surreal. Cultural Foundations and the CAP project, Exceptionalities and Classroom Leadership. All of the Bloom’s taxonomy. All of the alignment. We are one day away from a Master’s Degree in Urban Education that we completed in one year. It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.

MTR Christmas Party 2015!

MTR Christmas Party 2015!

In this last year, we’ve grown up and accomplished a lot, but we’ve done it together. We explored Memphis: the scavenger hunt, the Redbirds game, and the tours of FedEx, St. Jude, our neighborhoods, and, of course, Graceland. Community was bolstered as a surprising number of us found ourselves strengthening our immune systems at the Back to School Bash. We ran 5ks, half-marathons, and full marathons. We went to Grizzlies games (#GritandGrind) and the Brooks Museum (both of which provided complimentary drinks *wink*). And through this year of challenge and self-discovery, posts to the Facebook page about free events were abundant.

Scavenger hunt team during Orientation Week.

Scavenger hunt team during Orientation Week.

Hey, the stipend life was real. And if just mentioning the month October isn’t enough to make us all shudder in retrospect, a moment of silence is needed for every dollar paid to ETS that month for each PRAXIS exam. This year of high highs and low lows was epitomized in the fifth and fourth of each month respectively. Talk about beauty from ashes.

Though this year was hard for each of us in different ways, each daunting day cumulated in an impactful year.

We came here knowing who we were and where we came from, but this year taught me to remember to ask: Who do you play for?

Because speaking for myself, especially during those Lead Teach 5-day weeks, if the answer wasn’t God, I felt like I was failing. Or as one resident put it, like Sylvester Stallone in Rocky IV without the gratification of knocking out the Russian.

View More: http://gretchenshawphotography.pass.us/mtrresidentsclassof2016

Tory Lang teaching at Collegiate School of Memphis during her Residency Year.

But really! We’ve all had those days, those weeks, maybe even months for some of us when we feel like we were the Russian. Knocked out and down for the count and drowning in it. We were physically spent and emotionally drained from brokenness. The brokenness of our city, our schools, our students, and ourselves. So for me in those moments, if the answer to: “Who do you play for?” was any of these, then I was perpetually on the side of this brokenness that I could see each day.

But when the answer to “Who do you play for?” was my Abba, the exhausting became refining. The overwhelming became sanctifying. The transitional became enlightening. As another resident put it, “it’s like that scene in Divergent where Tris jumps off the building not knowing that there will be a net at the bottom.”

Retroactive spoiler alert.

Such grace we have been given to serve a God who is constantly our net in the darkness. Remembering this truth has personally been one of my biggest lessons this year. When I felt like I was falling or on the precipice of doing so, which was often, I needed to remember to ask: Who do you play for?

Given all that we’ve accomplished this last year, the late night lesson plans and procrastination papers, the miserable mornings and the queue for the copier. A year in the classroom and a Master’s degree under our belts. For me, that answer to this question can’t be anyone other than God. He is simultaneously the humbling and redemptive force loving me when I lack the capacity to do so. Holding me in balance when I can’t even stand. Listening when I can only cry. When I remember to ask this question, I am reminded of whom I get to play for. So even in the midst of the hardest of hardship, which for some of us looks like lots and lots of puberty, I can find myself learning joy. It is not easy or simple or formulaic. It is my grace-filled God.

Dearest, 2016s, let’s take a deep breath and look at where we are. Look at where we started. The fact that we’re alive is a miracle. So remember to ask: Who do you play for?

MTR Class of 2016 at Union University Graduation

MTR Class of 2016 at Union University Graduation

Interested in learning more about MTR and the Residency Year? Check out the MTR website.