Like a lot of ideas, Teach For America sounds good, but in actuality? Well, that’s a decision you would have to come to on your own. As a nonprofit, TFA’s stated slogan is “One day, all children in this nation will have the opportunity to attain an excellent education.” Who could argue with that?
Creating a Peace Corps type model to work in the most needy of schools is a lofty and worthy goal. As a recently retired teacher from a school with a poverty rate hovering around 90%, I can assure you that teaching students from such backgrounds burns out even the most experienced. It is grueling, and it is exhilarating. Urban districts and other high-poverty districts need enthusiastic educators to reach students.
What I object to is the attitude that seems to indicate if one is a stellar graduate or undergraduate in a chosen major, then one can teach without much attention paid to the art of pedagogy. I will come right out with it – I vehemently disagree. It is insulting to assume that, the process, the science, the art of teaching seems so unvalued. A search of TFA’s website shows a “training schedule” in the range of 4-6 weeks. From the perspective of a person who spent 4 years undergraduate, 1 year graduate, countless house in pre-practicums and observations, the message seems clear: anyone can teach and we’ll show you how in 6 weeks or less.
So why do I care? Well, recently I read a post on a professional list that I subscribe to indicating that the legislative aides of many of our members of Congress are TFA alumni. If that is true – currently I’m researching that using Members’ staff lists and Linkedin profiles – then it will be no wonder that educators and education are under-valued and looked down upon.
Stay tuned for future posts.