As a recently accepted 2014 Corps Member I have not had to look far to find TFA critics. When I was a prospective applicant trying to research the organization, I could not get past all of the articles, sob stories, and blogs to find the information that I wanted. Therefore, instead of ignoring them I decided to read every article and blog that reached my eyes. I was able to find out why John or Jane quit, why Mr. Doe doesn’t write recommendations for TFA, how unprepared every TFA teacher was (is what some articles would have you believe), how it steals jobs from veteran teachers, how it assists in high turnover, how it assists in privatization of education, and how it is the worst thing since Miley twerked at the VMAs. I then turned to my campus recruiter, TFA’s website, and the positive articles for the “kool-aid”…and I knew they’d have it. I saved the best for last: I talked to my old High School teachers, the principal, and corps members that I actually know from 2013, 2011, 2007, and 1998. From this I looked at my own values, passions, and goals to proceed with the application process.
Apparently there was a School Leaders of Color Conference/Workshop going on today through TFA or they were affiliated in some way. I happen to follow David Johns, the Executive Director for the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African-Americans, on Twitter and this happened (might have to click on the image read the entire tweets):
Johns was wrong to assume that this person was on the “sideline” because they actually aren’t, but the conversation that followed was a mouthful, but it summed up my stance with Teach for America (the stance that I’ve had to argue umpteen times since September).
The first tweet is the MAIN reason the cacophony of complaints/critiques that I faced/face did not faze me. Jane had a horrible time during her first year and institute didn’t prepare her. Okay…that’s sad for Jane. These stories were not enough for me to dismiss TFA as a choice and DEFINITELY not enough to undermine the work that the organization is actually doing. There are things that I don’t like about TFA and there might be more that I will find, but you aren’t going to tell me about teacher unpreparedness…like there’s some standard and reliable way to measure how prepared someone is to do something as dynamic and complex as teaching. I know a teacher that had several degrees, certificates, specializations, and whatever other piece of paper or book you want to throw in there and they couldn’t effectively teach my 7th grade Math class. However, Ms. Adams could. She was our substitute for 3 months because Dr. ____ quit (hint: he wasn’t in TFA and contributed to our turnover rate) and we needed a teacher. She only held a Bachelor’s from GSU, but her novice classroom management allowed her to successfully teach us how to factor and solve equations. HOWEVER, she couldve easily gone next door and her same tactics could have flopped. Education is too dynamic to put constraints on who can teach whom or what. You aren’t going to label TFA as the culprit behind teacher turnover when the solution is somewhere deeper than TFA’s commitment requirement. I could count on fingers and toes how many M.Ed’s we had in my public schools that switched schools or that I see now working in Real Estate (personal story haha). I can also tell you about the TFA teachers I know that are going into their 3rd, 7th, and 16th years of teaching. I get personally offended when someone insults their work by making faulty generalizations about the organization that allowed them to do the work.
I couldn’t agree with this one more. Another reason most of the criticisms waste my time is because they repeat the same faulty points and rhetoric. This is also the reason I’m leaving out the tweets from the opposing account, you can pretty much find what they were saying on any random TFA critique article or blog (that’s how overused they are). I even watched this argument unfold and it seems that people literally wait for some sort of compliment to be made about TFA and they pounce. There is a blog that I often read from a common TFA dissenter and some things are very valid, but other comments I see are usually overdone and annoying. To see that some people can almost make a name by always being there to undercut and fact check is not heroic in my eyes nor is anything being solved…but everyone has a right to their own opinion.
This is what touched me. People can spend so much time pointing out the “bad” that they overlook the good. What if every time a blog was posted about what TFA is doing wrong, an article suggesting what they SHOULD do was written? What if every time a veteran teacher flaunted their “experience” to make faulty and hackneyed generalizations, they encouraged a young or prospective teacher? I believe in speaking truth to power, voicing your opinion, and standing up for what you believe in…but where is the line? Why would anyone degrade a fellow teacher with claims of seniority? I can’t say anything bad about Dr._____ for leaving us in the middle of Fall 2004 semester. At least he tried. There are those that aren’t bold enough to enter this profession and his departure didn’t rob me of an education, it allowed for a young substitute to come in and finish the work that he was trying to do. I praise all of my teachers for doing what few Americans want to do, for accepting pay that others won’t, and for molding the next generation. Lastly, I chimed in on Twitter with one of my favorite quotes, because it can be applicable to most of these situations.
#teachthebabies “When we seek to discover the best in others, we somehow bring out the best in ourselves.”