Teach for America

<p>My oldest son is interested in working at Teach for America? In particular, he is looking at potential positions in Atlanta, Baltimore, and New Orleans. Would appreciate any coments from participants in the program, particularly from those who have worked in these areas. My son is concerned about how well teachers were received by student, their community, and the local teachers. What were some of challenges faced by volunteers? How well wree they prepared in the orientation? Are there ways to prepare for the experience while still in college (e.g., eduction courses or classroom teaching)? My son has had a fair amount of experience in tutoring young adults from poor neighborhoods to help them obtain their G.E.D. diplomas.</p>

<p>As a general background, I highly recommend the blog entries on Ephblog by a Williams '06 grad who calls herself "Long shirt, blue jacket" and is listed as Anonymous '06 in the Ephblogroll. She teaches in Mississippi for Teach for America. I think this is the link to her bolg, which is a feed to Ephblog: <a href="http://wanderingeph.blogspot.com%5B/url%5D"&gt;http://wanderingeph.blogspot.com&lt;/a&gt;&lt;/p>

<p>Have a couple of friends who have done TFA...all seem to really like their students - have heard some stories about students being very upset upon learning my friends were going to be leaving.</p>

<p>That's not to say that everything runs smoothly or that there aren't complaints with the programs. One married couple I know both went to TFA and quit the program by November. They felt that what they got into was not what they had been led to expect by any stretch of the imagination. But they also said that for a lot of people the program would still be valuable...but they were really bothered about what they walked into as far as student reception, and more importantly the way they were treated by the other teachers and administration.</p>

<p>Teach for American was I think the second largest employer of students from my college, the University of Chicago, in the last year I saw data for. I also have a close friend who participated in Teach for America and is still teaching in an inner city elementary school today--now a married woman with two school-aged children of her own. Unfortunately I can't provide any answers to your specific questions, but I've never heard participants talk poorly of the progam.</p>

<p>TFA is a very popular program, and quite competitive. In general, it seems to offer good experiences to the graduates who do it. It wouldn't surprise me if administrators and career teachers are a little hostile to TFA in some districts, because the TFA kids tend to be outsiders who are much richer, differently trained, and very different in career focus than career teachers, not to mention the fact that every TFA position is a position that won't be filled by an alumnus/a of the education program the teacher in the next classroom graduated from. Also, very few of the TFA kids will stay in public education for the long haul, so their perspective will likely be very different from that of career teachers. (Which, of course, is part of the point of the program. Shhhhh!)</p>

<p>I think Baltimore is the home base of TFA. If it isn't formally, it is where a lot of the people who built it and grew it live and work. For that reason, I would guess that the Baltimore program probably works pretty well. I don't know anything about Atlanta or New Orleans. (Except that New Orleans' new superintendant is coming from Philadelphia: Paul Vallas. He is someone with big ideas, big leadership skills, and an even bigger ego. He isn't necessarily fun to work with/for, but he's guaranteed to create some excitement and energy around public education in NOLA, and that would be a big plus for a young teacher, too.)</p>

<p>The daughter of a friend of mine was starting her second year in NO as Katrina hit. She came back after evacuation, worked at one of the few schools that opened up. Lost her apartment and everything in it; spent the first weeks back sleeping on tables in the school library.</p>

<p>Pretty intense. She found the experience, first and second years both, very challenging. I don't have more specifics than that.</p>

<p>My Yalie-grad '07 cousin is doing TFA this upcoming year. The last I heard, she was assigned to coastal NC, with no pinpoint.</p>

<p>Thanks for the info. Do you know whether candidates choose regions or are assigned them?</p>

<p>My understanding is that students list first, second, third choice areas, but there is no guarantee they will get them. I think most do get their first or second choice. Have you checked out their website? I'm sure a lot of this is explained there.</p>

you might post this also at the grinnell forum. we met several students there who mentioned the program.</p>

<p>nice article by Jay Mathews in the Washington Post on Michelle Rhee, the new D.C. superintendent and Teach for America.
<a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/06/17/AR2007061701345.html%5B/url%5D"&gt;http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/06/17/AR2007061701345.html&lt;/a&gt;&lt;/p>

<p>I know four young women who have done TFA; all are daughters of friends. Locations: NYC (2), Philadelphia, Arizona. One finished several years ago and is now getting her Ph.D; two are mid-program and learning lots; one starts this summer. All four of these young women are exemplary people with great personalities. I am impressed with the caliber of people chosen for TFA.</p>

<p>When my daughter was taking the Praxis II in St. Louis about a month ago there were several TFA people there taking it along with her. The praxis is like the SAT for teaching certification. She said they were all complaining about how much they did not like teaching and moaning about the fact that they had signed contracts obligating them for another year. Granted, this is St. Louis which has notoriously bad schools so that could explain a lot.</p>

<p>One of the good things about majoring in education instead of doing TFA is that you do student teaching stints before you commit to teaching. My daughter had three seperate student teaching experiences and one was at an inner city school. I wonder if TFA has a trial period or an observation time where one can see what they are getting into before signing up.</p>

<p>I think one reason why TFA experiences could vary is that it seems to me (although granted I have no inside knowledge of the program) is because the areas served are going to be different experiences from what I can see. For examples it seems they serve areas like rural Mississippi - well the problems there are going to be very different from the problems in big inner cities also served like DC and Atlanta. Neither is really a "better" situation, but the problems are different, and people are probably better suited to certain situations. I think that's something you really need consider.</p>

<p>I see the same problems with TFA, as we do with the Alternative Certification people. It doesn't matter how bright and well-educated you are - if you don't have classroom management skills down you aren't going to be a competent teacher. The preparation for TFA and Alternative Certification teachers is inadequate, and it really is "trial by fire" for both the teachers and the poor kids who have to be in their classes. It's HARD to be a teacher; even harder if you are an idealistic 22-year-old graduate from a private LAC/HYPS without a clue how to deal with 22 students who have parents/relatives in jail, health issues such as chronic asthma, persistent lice, inadequate, abusive and/or neglectful parents, little language or literacy skills, reactive social skills, inadequate rest, chaotic homelife and lots of street smarts.</p>

<p>It really is "trial by fire" but our D was a Teach for America participant and she has become a truly outstanding teacher. She was assigned to a city and continues to teach in a public school in Washington. The first few months were really rough, but by Thanksgiving, she had matured greatly and had command of her class. I think one of the keys is that the candidate must be humble enough to look to veteran teachers in the building for ways to handle classroom management and the other issues Anxious Mom raises. If the candidate's life has been sheltered he/she is probably in for a shock.</p>