Teach for America

Discussion in 'Secondary Education' started by miss tree, Sep 18, 2009.

  1. miss tree

    miss tree Rookie

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  3. Special-t

    Special-t Enthusiast

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    Sep 22, 2009

    Many do feel this way. I'm just a sub and taking classes toward certification, but I do have an opinion.

    I truly think jobs should go first to certified teachers, but if they are not available then this kind of internship is a good thing.
    I've met TforA teachers. They good role models for the kids, but do often leave the field after their teaching internships which creates a gap that continues to be filled by inexperienced teachers. Because many go into it knowing that it's a temporary job, they don't take it as seriously as a teacher who's in for the long haul.

    On the other hand, many TforA teachers stay in some aspect of education and make wonderful contributions to the field. It's not that the TofA teachers are ill-intentioned, it's the program that may be at fault.

    I think what's happened is that it's gotten so big (and become a business entity - as you mentioned) that they are pushing actual certified teachers out of jobs which was not the original intention of the program. TforA should be there to fill a gap, if there are enough certified teachers to fill that gap, then it might be time for the program to refocus.
     
  4. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    I agree with both previous posters on just about every point.
     
  5. smalltowngal

    smalltowngal Multitudinous

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    Couldn't have said it better myself!
     
  6. rachaelski

    rachaelski Habitué

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    Well over 2/3 of TFAers stay in education after 2 years. I hate that people throw this statistic around...how many traditionally trained teachers leave teaching before the 5 year mark?

    TFA corps members, even without an educational background, have shown magnificent results on standardized testing. TFA has had especially great success with math and special education. Though TFAers do not have an education degree, they are receiving ongoing professional development and observations during their time in the corps.

    I joined TFA in 2006. My first year of teaching 94% of my kids tested proficient or higher on the state assessment, my kids averaged 1.8 years of reading growth in just 1 year, and my students recorded the highest levels of value added growth (growth beyond what the state projected from previous year's tests) in my school's history. I am not a unique case.

    Teach for America is kept around because it works. The teachers are successful and the kids benefit. It's not about the prospective teachers, it's not about the principal, it's about the kids. TFA benefits the students it serves.

    I hope TFA (Australia) is as successful in Australia as it is here.
     
  7. rachaelski

    rachaelski Habitué

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    TFA's goal and intention is to ensure that "one day all children will receive an excellent education," as stated by Wendy Kopp, TFA creator and CEO. It says nothing about filling teacher shortages. It isn't about the teachers, it's about the kids receiving sub-par educational experience....licensed teacher or not. The goal of TFA is close the achievement gap in American education. The gap still exists and in many places is widening. In New Mexico 50% of students drop out of high school! There is definitely a need for TFA teachers (and other good teachers).
     
  8. Special-t

    Special-t Enthusiast

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    After looking at the website, I'm actually now curious about the program.

    I was under the impression that only top students could get into TforA, but found that I actually qualify (you only have to have a 2.5 gpa) ... so now I'm interested!

    From the info on their website, it seems like the teachers (at least in Los Angeles) attend a regular University program and work as interns. What is the extra-something they provide that makes the difference?

    Could you share what it is about the program that creates better teachers? Why should a district hire a TforA intern over a regular University Intern taking the same classes?

    Do you take extra classes? Etc ...
     
  9. rachaelski

    rachaelski Habitué

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    In addition to working on their credentials, TFA does their own professional development-- workshops targeting areas of desired improvement, LP and unit plan critiques, data tracking of students, and observations by TFA employees.

    The reason districts pick TFA and continue to have TFA is a proven track record of success. TFA teachers do as well or better than their peers who have traditional certification.

    MOST people join TFA because of a desire to end the achievement gap in eduction. However, there are some who use it as a resume booster. That's TFA's current battle, weeding out those who are out to benefit themselves.
     
  10. TeacherSandra

    TeacherSandra Enthusiast

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    I'm lost. I assumed all Teach for America teachers were certified. Am I wrong? Why don't they want to get a certification? And what school district would hire people who don't have their certification?
    :help:
     
  11. rachaelski

    rachaelski Habitué

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    TFA teachers work on their certification while they are teaching...like ACP teachers....
     
  12. FourSquare

    FourSquare Fanatic

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    I think they're on emergency/provisional certificates while they earn a master's degree. I could be wrong though. Rachael will know better.

    I think the urban teacher residency is a better alternative teacher model, but I've got nothing but love for dedicated TFAers. (We are AmeriCorps brothers and sisters after all!) I think they bring a spirit of idealism that is much needed in under-resourced schools. However, I'm not sure I would feel comfortable being dumped in a classroom without ever actively working in one first. But this is just regarding me personally. People do it successfully year after year.
     
  13. rachaelski

    rachaelski Habitué

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    TFAers do student teaching during the summer for 4 weeks. Only a couple hours a day, but it gets their feet wet. The rest of the day is spent in classes, observing other teachers, and meeting with their advisor and faculty advisors.

    Urban residency model? Like the NYC Teaching Fellows or Denver Teaching Fellows, aren't they more localized versions of TFA?
     
  14. FourSquare

    FourSquare Fanatic

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    No. The urban teacher residency is kind of like a medical residency. You have to work for a year under a mentor teacher starting with observations and gradually taking on lesson responsibilities. During the year you also get a M.A.T. Then they put you in your own classroom. It specializes in urban issues that don't get focus in a traditional program. But it is similarly committed to urban classrooms like TFA, and also linked to the mission of giving all kids quality teachers.

    Denver and Boston have programs, but I am most familiar with Chicago's since I am trying to apply with them now. I am also supposed to schedule a phone interview with TFA but their server is down with all the traffic! :eek:
     
  15. TeacherSandra

    TeacherSandra Enthusiast

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    Thanks for the info! :)
     
  16. bryanmj

    bryanmj Rookie

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    Below is a blog post from the New York Times that I agree with.

    With the start of the school year already under way in a few places, some parents may think that the best teacher their child could get would be a Teach for America recruit. What T.F.A. represents for some parents are young people with knowledge, skills, intelligence and ambition. These parents may assume that such attributes aren’t found in those who enter teaching through traditional teacher preparation programs, which typically invest more time in education courses — addressing the “how” of teaching — than does Teach for America. As far as these parents are concerned, teaching boils down to talking. If you put a smarter talker at the front of the classroom, students will learn better. Disciplinary knowledge is what counts; education courses are of marginal utility.

    Teachers need serious preparation — in methods, multiculturalism, English Language Learners, special education, differentiated instruction, etc.

    As any reflective teacher will tell you, however, teaching and learning don’t necessarily go hand in hand, no matter how good the talker in front of the classroom. There is nothing as critical to the learning process as method, what John Dewey characterized as the effective arrangement of subject matter for learning.

    In part, that means that good teachers must know their content. Some T.F.A. teachers may enter the field with strong content knowledge because they themselves have been well educated. However, I believe that all teachers should have master’s degrees that both deepen their content knowledge and help them learn how to shape content into subject matter for effective engagement in K-12 classrooms — not an easy matter by any means.

    Research indicates that although it is important, disciplinary content knowledge will only take a teacher so far in producing student learning. That’s why I oppose programs like Teach for America, which offer only half of what’s needed. Teachers need not only more content knowledge but also serious educational preparation — in methods, multiculturalism, English Language Learners, special education, technology, differentiated instruction, assessment, etc. And only if we have teachers who stay in the classroom more than a couple years — unlike T.F.A.’s recruits — can we hope to raise student learning to the levels necessary for this nation to remain competitive globally.

    Take a look at the aims articulated by the Partnership for 21st Century Thinking Skills Coalition. If we accept these very ambitious goals for our students, then we’ll need to raise the bar — not lower it by accepting individuals with bachelor’s degrees and an abbreviated boot-camp experience of professional preparation — in order to produce teachers who stimulate higher levels of learning in all our nation’s children.

    Margaret S. Crocco is professor and coordinator of the Program in Social Studies and chair of the Department of Arts and Humanities at Teachers College at Columbia University

    I know this is a long post but it's something that is very true to education. I think the intentions of T.F.A. are good ones, I just completely disagree with how they put "teachers" in the classroom. A lot of the research that supports T.F.A. has been conducted or paid for TFA or by professors who are directly connected to the program. I applaud individuals who are willing to take on the task of working to close the achievement gap but this program is really a band-aid for a much larger problem with the educational system. I know a person who just finished her 2 years with T.F.A. After the first year of T.F.A. she was a "literacy coach" and the "principal" of the summer school program. First, I think this shows how high needs are in certain areas. Second, I think it's ludicrous that someone with no education background and 7 weeks of T.F.A. camp would become a "literacy expert" or "principal" of anything. She was teaching other T.F.A. teachers how to teach after a year in a school with no background in teaching. This is a very scary situation for our students. Teaching is about the students. We need qualified teachers who know how to deliver high quality instruction and I struggle with T.F.A.'s ability to prepare individuals for the classroom. I salute the individuals who stick with teaching after the two years. This is my career, profession and passion so I can't connect with those who see this as a stepping point to something bigger and better.
     
  17. bryanmj

    bryanmj Rookie

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    I think we need to keep in mind that we're professionals in all aspects. Let's not make this thread personal or attack each other. We should provide constructive feedback while expressing our opinions respectfully.
     
  18. rachaelski

    rachaelski Habitué

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    http://www.urban.org/publications/411642.html

    This is just one peer-reviewed article I found on TFA.

    I recently read that a 1/3 of traditionally trained teacher leave education after 3 years, and half leave teaching after 5 years. Is this really much different than TFA teachers? 2/3 of TFA teachers stay in education after their 2 year commitment.

    Would districts keep TFA in their schools if the teachers were not effective? There is no financial benefit...they pay TFA teachers like they pay regular teachers.

    I do take it personally. I think it is ignorant to say that there is only one way to train effective teachers. We are not robots. Experiences and backgrounds enrich our teaching. I find it especially ridiculous when there is a method that is working! I understand teachers get worried about their job security and all, but it's part of your job to prove yourself. TFA teachers still interview with the districts/principals.

    It is about the kids. What is going to be best for the kids? TFA corps members go into teaching knowing that they don't have all the answers, with a sense of humility. We work hard to be better for our kids. I called and talked with my TFA program director many times during my first months of teaching, and ironed out ways to better help my students.
     
  19. bryanmj

    bryanmj Rookie

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    Just because I disagree with T.F.A does not mean that I'm a traditionally trained teacher. I think there are certified teachers who shouldn't be teaching. I teach with a couple of them. I also think that you need to look at the other side of T.F.A. Rachealski, you are obviously a passionate teacher that goes above and beyond. You are furthering your education and that says a lot about your character and willingness to become the best teacher you can be. I think it's natural to take things personally, I just don't want anyone to be rude or put others down. That's not what we're here for. We all have differing points of view and it's important for all of us to keep in mind that we bring something different to the conversation.I think all teachers go into their first year with humility and a willingness to learn. I feel as though you feel that traditionally trained teachers walk into the classroom like we can't be touched. We're not snotty, we know we still have a lot to learn, we just have a different background going in. I don't think that there is only one way to train teachers, but I think alternative cert. programs have a ways to go. Four weeks of student teaching is not the experience I had. I had to student teach for 6 months. I really like the idea of the Boston program that was mentioned earlier that requires a longer period working in a classroom and then transitioning into your own classroom. I think there are improvements that need to be made to all teacher prep programs.
     
  20. rachaelski

    rachaelski Habitué

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    I don't want to be known as the angry TFA girl, but it burns me when people judge a program that has produced so many influential alumni who are advocates for change in education (many of whom are still teachers!). I am a great teacher. However, I think that was a natural ability for me, like some people have a natural ability for sports. Teaching came to me very naturally.
     
  21. rachaelski

    rachaelski Habitué

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    I don't think I have said anything disrespectful about traditionally trained teachers. If I have, I did not intend to. It's the closed-minded attitude about TFA and teachers who are "different" that gets me upset.

    Several times on these threads people have put down TFA without knowing much about the program.

    Education as a whole has a a long way to go. That includes teacher education: traditional and alternative. Leadership and classroom. Our education system as a whole stinks! Any attempts to try to improve it should be applauded. Programs like TFA, New Leaders for New Schools, the New Teacher Project, and successful charter networks like KIPP and Achievement First need support from donors and educators. Each attempt to improve education for the kids, and that should be our focus.
     
  22. bryanmj

    bryanmj Rookie

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    Your passion makes it very obvious that you love what you do. Thank you for your service and I know that you are making a difference every day that you are in the classroom, no matter how you were certified. No matter how we're certified, we need to show up ready to teach and continue to learn how to better serve the kiddos that walk through our door.
     
  23. mollydoll

    mollydoll Connoisseur

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    I am pretty sure that they mean they will be paid at a lower rate compared to teachers with a masters and step experience. Not less than any other first year teacher.

    Re: DC public schools have been a mess. They needed restructuring and a lot of emergency intervention. I'm not sure what that has to do with the chancellor being former TFA. The reason DC has been opening more charter schools is because the existing system was chaos, vastly underperforming and overall one of the worst school systems in the country.

    I am teaching on an alternate route license. I was hired over traditional candidates, had multiple job offers, and I get paid the same as anybody else.
     
  24. rachaelski

    rachaelski Habitué

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    If a teacher is not doing their job they need to be fired. Tenure or no tenure. As a product of a bad public school, I can speak to the fact that many teachers aren't doing their job and do not deserve it. Rhee is awesome and I am glad that someone is finally taking drastic steps to improve schools.

    Personally, I see nothing wrong with performance-based pay...assuming that the performance is based on several measures and focuses on student growth as opposed to student rankings on standardized tests.
     
  25. FourSquare

    FourSquare Fanatic

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    Totally agree 100%. Turnaround takes it even further and flushes out the whole staff in order to create a new school culture. I think this is even more important, because you can have excellent teachers with a poor administration that doesn't know how to manage resources. (Or a great administration with horrible teachers!)

    We have to focus on what's best for the kids.
     
  26. Special-t

    Special-t Enthusiast

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    I'm just jumping in here to point out that TforA teachers in Los Angeles work using an intern credential (as do University Interns), and are paid approximately $6000 less than fully credentialed, 1st year teachers.
     
  27. Special-t

    Special-t Enthusiast

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    The thing that scares me about performance-based pay is that cultural differences and more importantly, lack of motivation (stemming from lack of parental support) effect student performance & growth. Teachers should use universal methods to try to reach and motivate all students, but it's not always enough to influence growth and performance.
     
  28. Special-t

    Special-t Enthusiast

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    I don't know about other districts, but LA Unified used to hire many interns from Universities, TforA, and they had their own intern program with only a 6 week training prior to jumping into a full time job. I say "used to hire" because this year they had replace many interns with layed off teachers. At the school where I subbed today - they fired TWENTY TWO Intern teachers and replaced them with credentialed teachers who lost their jobs due to the budget crisis. I was going to attend the LA Unified intern program, but had to change plans when it was cancelled this summer.

    Interns do want to earn their credential, they are just working full time as teachers while they take classes.
     
  29. bryanmj

    bryanmj Rookie

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    DC school are/were a complete mess. I completely agree with performance-based pay as long as it's not based off of one nationalized test score. Growth needs to be measured individually. People who do their jobs well are paid more in almost every profession but really bad teachers who are tenured continue to get yearly raises just because they show up. We need to be held accountable as teachers, parents need to be held accountable for PARENTING their children, students need to be held accountable for doing their part and we need to find a way to balance all of this without dumping it on the teachers' shoulders and basing our pay off of it. Come up with a good system and I'm all for performance-based pay. We're not there yet.
     
  30. smalltowngal

    smalltowngal Multitudinous

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    I know you probably didn't mean it this way, but I think ALL good, effective teachers, regardless of their background, make a connection with their students that lasts outside of the classroom and past the school year.
     
  31. rachaelski

    rachaelski Habitué

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    You are taking this statement out of context. The argument was that TFA teachers, since the initial commitment is only 2 years, do not connect with the students. I was sharing example of how many TFA teachers make meaningful connections.
     
  32. smalltowngal

    smalltowngal Multitudinous

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    It was just this statement that jumped out at me. I hadn't read all of the responses so didn't see any response to TFA teachers not making connections.
     
  33. miss tree

    miss tree Rookie

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    Some interesting reading.

    http://media.www.vanderbiltorbis.co...ion/Does-Teach.For.America.Work-3761962.shtml

    "In a study of over 270,000 students and 15,000 teachers, TFA educators were found to consistently perform worse in comparison to their certified counterparts when other qualifications were normalized. Likewise, non-TFA, non-certified teachers achieved poorer results on their students' math and reading tests than certified teachers. These findings appear to affirm the value of teacher certification programs, which TFA lacks.

    Unfortunately, the criticisms of TFA run deeper than simple student achievement. A study conducted by the National Bureau of Economic Research showed that amateur teachers make their biggest leap in ability after their second year of teaching. Accordingly, teacher retention beyond two years should be a high priority, a philosophy that is not reflected by the voluntary two-year commitment candidates make to TFA. Indeed, Harvard researchers showed that ten percent of TFA acceptees cannot even make it to their second year, and nearly all of them leave education after that.

    Those who stay in education often leave their underperforming school districts for more lucrative offers in better-funded areas. Thus, the experience and talent leaves the area that nurtured it."
     
  34. rachaelski

    rachaelski Habitué

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    I believe that data is from the research by Linda Darling-Hammond (2005), which has been criticized for its small sample size, and is not considered accurate.
     
  35. violobo

    violobo New Member

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    Limited TFA experience

    In our broke district (like every other one), we have TFA teachers. They're cheaper. They're overseen by their program. They're young and energetic.
    There's one at my school. Originally, I was concerned about her, given the short amount of training, the lack of education background, age, and the save-the-world mentality I perceived from the program. Given the fact that we only deal with her, I'm not going to make generalizations about the whole program. However, our TFA teacher is amazing! She's thoughtful about what she does, sets high expectations for her kids, tracks data like a champ, and engages her students. She participates in our 40 days of on-site PD (yes, 40!) as one of us and fulfills all of her commitments to TFA. Often, she'll bring back PD ideas from their training to share with us.
    Granted, our school environment is not the norm, but she's nearing the end of her time commitment with TFA. Luckily for us, she's almost completed her credential and will finish a master's degree soon. She's also planning on staying at our school for as long as possible. We couldn't be happier!
     
  36. miss tree

    miss tree Rookie

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    I'm intrigued that a sample of 270,000 students and 15,000 teachers can be considered "too small".
     
  37. Special-t

    Special-t Enthusiast

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    I think the more interesting figure in the above article is the retention rate - saying that it's harder to hold onto TforA teachers past that crucial 2 year point.

    The last TforA teacher I spoke to was studying for his LSAT while doing his first year of internship. I must say, that he did have brains and lots of energy (credentialing classes, teaching full time, TofA classes, and the LSAT).
    His plan was to get his preliminary credential - but not continue on to his clear credential. His plan was to work as a teacher under the preliminary credential while he pursued other career options.

    Again, this doesn't make TofA teachers bad people or bad teachers, but what it does do is take a job away from someone who wants to teach as a career - which is where the undercurrent of hostility toward TofA probably stems from.

    On the other hand, the retention rate for new credentialed teachers in tough districts is probably very low, too!
     
  38. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    I can't say I think it's a bad thing to have TFA alumni in positions of power and influence: think about how various kinds of policy-making that affect schools might have been different if their champions had rubber-on-the-road teaching experience.
     
  39. rachaelski

    rachaelski Habitué

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    From wikipedia, but cited there...

    Between 10 and 15 percent of each Teach For America corps class leaves before completing their two-year commitment.[9] For comparison, nationally, 16.8% of all teachers left their positions in 2005. In the urban areas, where most Teach For America corps members serve, the teacher turnover rate was above 20%.[10]

    In the past much of the organization's efforts have been tightly focused on recruitment, but are now shifting to boost the retention rate. Teach For America also reports that 34% of alumni teach at their placement schools for a third year. Many others go on to teach elsewhere, especially at KIPP charter schools and other schools founded by Teach For America alumni. Still others train for administrative positions, and Teach For America now reports that 63% of its alumni are working or studying in education.[11]
     
  40. Emily Bronte

    Emily Bronte Groupie

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    I don't really see this as being a negative program. Kudos to anyone who is willing to give it a try. Certainly, it should not come as a surprise if the turn over rate is high, or seems to be. Look at where they are being placed to teach. They are being put in schools where a lot of teachers don't want to be...difficult places...hard for a new comer...
     
  41. curiousinvestor

    curiousinvestor Rookie

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    Hi,

    I have an interesting take on this. I am a traditional teacher and went through a credential program and teach at a low-income public high school. I am a career changer, and now I'm only in my 3rd year of teaching, but spent this past summer working for Teach for America. I wanted to form my own opinion about TFA, as I too was skeptical and wondered whether this organization was a good or bad thing.

    I am 100% convinced that TFA is a good thing. The people they have in the organization are incredible (the corps members especially). They have such dedication and high standards that it puts many experienced teachers to shame. Furthermore, they place teachers in some of the most difficult places to staff. (Yes, I know there are teachers sitting around who can't find jobs right now, but how many experienced teachers will enthusiastically raise their hands to teach in the inner-city?)

    Many TFAers go on to do very important work, and they become future "lobbyists" for the educational sector. They are making a difference. TFA is well-run organizationally, compared to what I've seen in other private organizations, non-profits, and in the public sector.

    Of course, like any organization, TFA has its drawbacks. They work their corps members way too much, so they do get burnt out easily. It is likely that you will find a TFA classroom teacher in their classroom past 8pm and on weekends. Yes, I applaud the dedication, but it is difficult to sustain once you are older, married, or have children.

    Bottom Line: TFA is doing something good. Regardless, they are doing something different from current status-quo education. This is what I have concluded after meeting TFA'ers and joining the organization temporarily.
     

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