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D accepted into Teach For America - any experiences to share?

ColoradoMomof2ColoradoMomof2 Registered User Posts: 615 Member
edited January 2010 in Parent Cafe
Our college senior daughter just got accepted into the Teach For America program today. She will be a mathematics teacher, grades 6-12, in the Eastern North Carolina region near Durham. Besides being very proud of her (she did this all on her own!!) and excited for her new adventure, does anyone have any tips, anecdotes, things she/we should be aware of?

Thanks in advance for any input.
Post edited by ColoradoMomof2 on

Replies to: D accepted into Teach For America - any experiences to share?

  • SJTHSJTH Registered User Posts: 1,891 Senior Member
    My best friend's daughter is in her second year of teaching special ed for Teach for America. She has completely loved her experience, and now is considering teaching as a career, where she had been all set to go to law school. She has considered it completely worthwhile.
  • RacinReaverRacinReaver Registered User Posts: 6,610 Senior Member
    Don't know anyone that's done it, but one of my friends had a Teach for America teacher in high school, and she said he was the best teacher she ever had and the person that really motivated her to apply to all the top schools out there (all of which she got into).
  • frazzled1frazzled1 Registered User Posts: 5,582 Senior Member
    Many congratulations to your d (and her proud parents :) ). We've had several threads on this board over the past year or so about TFA:
    http://talk.collegeconfidential.com/parents-forum/667640-parents-experience-teach-america.html?highlight=Teach+America (responses got intense on this one)

    My d is a first-year TFA corps member, teaching in an elementary school in the DC Metro area. It has been, as promised, an extremely challenging and very gratifying experience so far. You should have the opportunity to do a conference call with TFA staff soon - I highly recommend doing so. (But don't stay on longer than you need to for the info you want - I did because I hadn't realized we'd be charged for the call ;) ).

    Tips - You'll have to file some financial info if your d wants to take out a TFA loan for relocation expenses (I believe this is either very low-interest or even interest-free). You may also need to COBRA her for health insurance for a month or two, depending upon when her school district's coverage will begin. And you'll want to keep your fingers crossed about the local district's financial health. My d's permanent placement came later than she wanted because her district closed 10 schools between the time she was accepted by TFA and the time she began teaching.

    In general, we've been very impressed by the organization and so happy that our d loves it (most days!). Feel free to PM me if you have any questions.
  • JHSJHS Registered User Posts: 17,165 Senior Member
    There's a lot of stuff out there you can read, both pro- and anti- TFA. This month's Atlantic magazine has a pretty good pro-TFA article that will tell you a lot about why and how your daughter got selected.

    My daughter is teaching 10th/11th grade English in the South Bronx as a TFA corpsmember. She is finding the experience very challenging. The quality of the training she got seems to have been decent, or a little better than that -- the teachers at her school from the Teaching Fellows program (something of a TFA competitor) have decided that TFA does a significantly better job than their program. She gets decent coaching and support from TFA. But the problems at her school are quite severe, in and out of the classroom. She hasn't experienced a lot of success or satisfaction yet, mainly a lot of bone-grinding work and keeping her chin up.

    The work requirements are very intense. She has four classes/five periods/day with 35 kids each. She does a lot of preparation. She is also enrolled in an M.Ed. program, and there are a lot of TFA meetings and coaching sessions. Her commute to the school is 1+ hr. each way. She generally wakes up at 5:30, leaves home at about 6:15, and gets back around 7:30. Then does prep. It's a long day.

    For all of the foregoing reasons, there is actually a fair amount of attrition from the program. Some very accomplished kids just hate it, and wash out quickly. I think it would be very tough on someone who had romantic ideas along the lines of Mr. Chips, Stand And Deliver, Dangerous Minds, etc. It's more like hard, sloggy trench warfare. One hopes there will be a payoff at some point in terms of skill and success.

    Anyway, we're completely proud of her.
  • pugmadkatepugmadkate Registered User Posts: 5,888 Senior Member
    PBS is in the middle of airing a series about Teach for America. Here is a link, Teaching for America | Learning Matters
  • ColoradoMomof2ColoradoMomof2 Registered User Posts: 615 Member
    Thank you for all the information and good wishes thus far. Our daughter did mention the forthcoming conference call, so I'm looking forward to listening in on that. I knew I could count on you folks for information!!!
  • thecheckbookthecheckbook Registered User Posts: 406 Member
    That's a great area of the country. Four seasons, four hours from the mountains, four hours from the beach! The interstate system is good and the airport in Raleigh is good. Flights in and out are reasonable for the most part. But to really enjoy the area anyone should know something about sports or be willing to learn
    because sports are a big part of life there and it's
    festive and fun, pro and college.(NC State, Duke, UNC, pro teams too).
  • tk21769tk21769 Registered User Posts: 9,914 Senior Member
    My oldest is a 2nd year TFA'er working with poor and learning disabled kids in NYC. I agree with some of the opinions JHS has expressed (here and in one of the cited threads). He's right, try not to go in with romantic notions. It's very hard work. Some of the biggest challenges are not at all with the children (though my kid works with young ones not teenagers). It's with the parents in some cases, with the established teachers in many cases. The parents often are well-meaning, they love their kids, but are dealing with a host of issues related to poverty, substance abuse and criminal behavior. Among the career teachers - sorry, there is no polite way around this - there is just a lot of dead wood (aggravated in some cases by their own substance abuse problems.)

    Nevertheless, I would say my kid has experienced some success and satisfaction ("payoff" if you will). He got away for a couple days over the holidays and proudly shared with us the movies he'd shot of his students giving presentations on wildlife habitat. Children from the most disadvantaged circumstances talking animatedly, using a few grown-up words, about arctic ecosystems as a big, hulking dad beamed in the background. My son's biggest asset, I think, is not anything he learned in college. He's a ham who brings a sense of organized playfulness to places that need that. Although he does frame his approach in the learning theories he is picking up. I've been critical of "extracurriculars" in American college admissions, but can see that what some of these Ivy League TFA types bring to the task is probably not so much high IQ, as it is backgrounds in theater, sports, outdoor leadership and such.
  • ColoradoMomof2ColoradoMomof2 Registered User Posts: 615 Member
    Thank you, frazzled1, for the links to previous threads. I went and read all three, every post. Wow, you are right - a lot of intense feelings out there regarding TFA, both good and bad. I was especially interested (and more than a little concerned) about how some veteran teachers at the school D ends up at may view her when she arrives. Lots of information to digest and I will pass some of it along to her (hopefully without scaring the bejesus out of her!!). Again, I really appreciate it.
  • ColoradoMomof2ColoradoMomof2 Registered User Posts: 615 Member
    Additionally, thank you pugmadkate for the PBS series link. I will look at their experiences with interest.
  • ColoradoMomof2ColoradoMomof2 Registered User Posts: 615 Member
    JHS, the Atlantic article was very interesting. Thank you for letting me know about it.
  • [Deleted User][Deleted User] Posts: 0 Junior Member
    Those of you with TFA kids should be so proud of them (and I know you are) for having the desire, ability, and initiative to make a difference in this country. The environments of poverty and lack of resources and mentors faced by some of these children they're helping are eye opening.

    Best of luck to all your kids.
  • walkinghomewalkinghome Registered User Posts: 7,714 Senior Member
    I know I've said this before but I'd like to remind people that the TFA teachers are working along side regular teachers, people who like my daughter, are doing the same job but knew they wanted to be teachers at the beginning of their college career instead of at the end. My daughter is teaching in Harlem because she also wanted to make a difference.
  • [Deleted User][Deleted User] Posts: 0 Junior Member
    Kathiep, I have much admiration for teachers in general, but particularly for those like your daughter who are teaching in under-resourced areas. I can't even imagine how demanding such a job must be but I have so much respect for those who do it.

    My own DD is headed to grad school because she wants to work with kids with disabilities and at risk kids. She's worked for several years throughout undergrad at a residential school and has seen the home environments of some of these children as she assisted with transportation to bring the children home across the poorest communities. I pray that she has the strength and determination that she will need for a lifetime of such difficult work.

    We're all blessed that there are kids like ours out there trying to make a difference in their own way.
  • frazzled1frazzled1 Registered User Posts: 5,582 Senior Member
    I was especially interested (and more than a little concerned) about how some veteran teachers at the school D ends up at may view her when she arrives. Lots of information to digest and I will pass some of it along to her (hopefully without scaring the bejesus out of her!!).
    I was concerned, too, after reading that particular thread. However, my d has felt no negativity from other teachers related to her being in TFA. She has the advantage of working in a district and a school with a history of employing many TFA corps members. A number of teachers and a high-level district administrator are TFA alums. She was initially concerned about the possibility of bad relationships with other teachers, but they haven't materialized. Her mentor teachers during the summer institute were true gems, very encouraging and accepting, and she's found the same attitude at her elementary school. She's told me that TFA stresses the importance of respecting traditionally-certified teachers (which d has always done, anyway), and working for a cooperative professional atmosphere.

    I'm awed by the young people who choose to take on this challenge, TFA and otherwise. (And, of course, by the teachers who've made it a career.)
This discussion has been closed.