Seattle Education

For the news and views you might have missed

A professor’s encounter with Teach for America

This was originally posted on the Washington Post by Valerie Strauss.

tfa2

A professor’s encounter with two Teach For America recruiters

By Mitchell Robinson

One of my students was contacted by a Teach For America recruiting representative, and asked if she was interested in getting involved with the organization. She sent me the note, and I replied that TFA was not welcome in my teacher preparation classes (á la Mark Naison!). I received a reply asking for a meeting, to discuss my “problems with TFA.”

And so I met with the two TFA recruiters, both of whom had taught for three years as TFA corps members and then moved into leadership/management roles with the organization. The discussion went just about as well as I thought it would.

They asked how they could work more effectively with traditional teacher education programs, and I asked them how they justified sending out recruits with five weeks of “training” into some of the more challenging classrooms in our state.

When I suggested that TFA was contributing to the displacement of veteran teachers in Chicago, Detroit and other urban centers, looks of shock and disbelief registered on their faces. They said that was not their goal.

When I asked one of  them to explain TFA’s goal, she said it was to improve education in urban schools. I asked her to list the factors contributing to the “problems” in those schools and explain what  TFA was doing about those problems. She didn’t answer.

I suggested that the teacher “shortage” in some urban schools might be the result of poor teacher working conditions and a destabilizing of teaching as a profession, causing more teachers to leave the classroom–and that TFA played a major role in creating these problems. She denied this was the case, but acknowledged that the “perception is there.” I replied: “Its not a perception. That’s your business plan, and if you aren’t doing anything to actively combat that “perception,” then you are part of the problem. When traditionally prepared teachers leave the profession, it’s a bug–when TFA recruits leave, its a feature.” She disagreed, and I asked her what the average length of service was in Detroit for TFA recruits. She “wasn’t sure.”

We finished our discussion after I posed this question to one of the recruiters: “What would you say to my student teachers who decided they wanted to be teachers while they were in middle school or younger, elected a major in education, and then spent four or five years preparing to enter the profession, if they asked you why someone with no degree in education and five weeks of summer training should be competing with them for the same job?”

Her response was that some people decide to become teachers at different times, and that should not preclude their entry to the profession. I agreed with her and suggested that these persons then enter a graduate program in teaching, which takes two years of coursework and includes a full student teaching placement at my institution. I said that students in high-need schools deserve nothing less.

The other recruiter appeared disturbed by the conversation. She had majored in journalism and Italian, and then taught English and Social Studies for three years.

I asked her what was wrong. She said, “I just wanted to get into the classroom in the worst way.”

“You did,” I replied.

2 comments on “A professor’s encounter with Teach for America

  1. Rene Diedrich
    October 19, 2014

    I am proud of the resistance . Interns are usualluy hoping to do good. I notice your extensive list lacks TURN , teachers union reform network. This is explains why the union is allowing vet teachers in LA to go own in flames . Our union leader is pals with Wendy Kopp as he was an originating member the TFA soiree included KOPP , deasy , stein , and Randy W. Why is she supporting this program! ? Samereason she supports common core?

    • seattleducation2010
      October 20, 2014

      Weingarten was bought off a long time ago when she joined forces with Eli Broad.

      She is not an educator and needs to be booted out of office.

      Dora

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Information

This entry was posted on October 19, 2014 by in Teach for America and tagged .
%d bloggers like this: