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Safety Concerns -- Teach for America

undecidedundecided Posts: 2,029Registered User Senior Member
edited September 2008 in Parent Cafe
I submitted my application to join the 2009 corps in Teach for America, but it was definitely against the advice of my mother. She's concerned about the idea of sending a mostly untrained young female (that'd be me) into the heart of some of the sketchiest neighborhoods and school systems in America.

Having read a few stories and heard a few more, I have to admit that the prospect of violence against teachers, especially new teachers, is a little worrisome.

I would like to hear some anecdotes, as I'm sure several parents here have children who have participated in Teach for America or are applying as well.

How do you feel about their safety? And, on an unrelated note, how this applies to their overall aspirations?
Post edited by undecided on

Replies to: Safety Concerns -- Teach for America

  • emeraldkity4emeraldkity4 Posts: 35,861Registered User Senior Member
    you might try this.
    Teach for America Community's Journal
    TFA, is ridiculously competitive, so you probably won't have to worry about it.
  • undecidedundecided Posts: 2,029Registered User Senior Member
    Thanks. :) I know of the LJ community, and about the stiff competition at TFA. I'm not banking on TFA by any stretch of the imagination. I'm just trying to find out other people's personal (or second-hand) experiences prior to me needing to make a decision about it.
  • emeraldkity4emeraldkity4 Posts: 35,861Registered User Senior Member
    I think if they accept you, they feel confident about your ability to be successful/make a difference-
    Not sure of how many they place in same region, but I expect you will also be supported Re: training etc.

    However, there are also other gap programs where you can feel like you are doing " real work".
  • mimk6mimk6 Posts: 4,162Registered User Senior Member
    My daughter is in her first year with Teach for America. She is teaching middle school English in an urban and dysfunctional school district. I know that TFA does address personal safety issues in their summer institute. Last year, after she was accepted, TFA had a phone conference for parents of those admitted to address any concerns we might have. Of course, the safety issue came up. They insisted that they don't have a problem with teachers being victims of violent crime, etc. We were concerned to find that on at least two occasions, our daughter has stayed late into the evening at her school working (work that could not be done at home) but basic common sense can be applied in such a situation -- lock the door to the classroom, ask the night custodian for an escort to the car, etc. Are you interested in elementary, middle or high school? I wouldn't consider there to be too much of a threat to your physical safety in the classroom at the elementary level but middle school and high school can be volatile. I recommend reading "Relentless Pursuit, A Year in the Trenches with Teach for America" which follows four TFA recruits in their first year at one of the most dangerous high schools in the country. I think you'll have a better idea of what you would be getting into -- in a worst case scenario type of way. In terms of overall aspirations, I think there are huge skills to be picked up having to do with organization, management, thinking on your feet, working harder than you thought possible, etc. I suppose it depends on your ultimate goals. People go on to do just about anything and everything after TFA. Some stay in the classroom, some go on to grad or professional school but pretty much everyone agrees that TFA is highly regarded on a resume and certainly not a hindrance to achieving in the next phase of life. By the way, if you search the archives, there was a thread last year on Teach for America.
  • worknprogressworknprogress Posts: 1,536Registered User Senior Member
    Our older daughter did TFA in an elementary school in the Bronx. It was without a doubt the best (but the hardest) thing she ever did.

    TFA did address safety as Mimk6 pointed out, but ultimately you are treated like an adult, like any other teacher who is working in a neighborhood where there is a high rate of crime. Honestly, once you are hired and placed, no one is asking what you are doing when you have to stay late at school or if you are walking in tough neighborhoods to get to a subway. If you are lucky enough to have a building principal who cares about such things, great, but if not, that's just the way it goes. I do think in some schools there is some resentment by the locals towards the fresh young people who will do their stint and then "go on to do just about anything." The local teachers and administrators realize that many TFA participants are looking at the job as a stepping stone, while they are there for the long haul.

    I think those teachers who chose to be assigned to rural areas have a different set of challenges, but for those who want to live in the city you have to ask yourself if you are ready to live and work in such an environment. DD lived in a small (small, small, small) studio apartment in the Upper East Side, close to the subway, and traveled each day to her job.

    Having said this, DD is still in public education in a city, although not NYC. She is a fabulous teacher who is committed to her profession.
  • mimk6mimk6 Posts: 4,162Registered User Senior Member
    " I do think in some schools there is some resentment by the locals towards the fresh young people who will do their stint and then "go on to do just about anything."

    Yes, I think that is true. Also, sometimes there is an inherent conflict between what TFA wants a recruit to do and what the established teaching community in a school thinks should be done. This can put the TFA recruit in a tough position at a time when what they most need is support. Worknprogress is absolutely right though -- no one will be looking out for your personal safety once you start teaching.
  • dragonmomdragonmom Posts: 5,107Registered User Senior Member
    A young friend of ours just finished 2 years in a tough southern urban high school. He said that one thing that made him feel safer was dressing the part of a professional teacher (dress slacks, ironed crisp dress shirt, tie) every day, which made him seem older and less vulnerable to the students.
  • dragonmomdragonmom Posts: 5,107Registered User Senior Member
    And perhaps also to some of the older teachers....
  • worknprogressworknprogress Posts: 1,536Registered User Senior Member
    Mimk6 - feel free to pm me if your DD ever has a rough day. Our older D is really the most positive person and there were a couple of times when she was at her wits end. When those calls came, her dad and I usually didn't sleep very well that night. In the end, she stuck it out and really matured. She was a very responsible person prior to her stint with TFA, but her experience made her so confident that she could tackle anything any boss, co-worker, etc., could throw at her.

    Good luck to both of you!
  • mimk6mimk6 Posts: 4,162Registered User Senior Member
    Thanks worknprogress -- I appreciate the offer and will probably take you up on it!
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