Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Nov 14 2010

Recommendation letter for my job

A college friend of mine is considering getting into teaching, and she asked me for my thoughts on the idea. This girl is smart, patient, and amazing with kids, and she’d probably make a fabulous teacher. Despite that, I still had a really hard time recommending it to her. Isn’t that a shame? I just kept thinking about how many teachers I know, both TFA and non-TFA, who are miserable on a daily basis. That deep-in-your-bones exhaustion and frustration and unhappiness isn’t something I can steer a good friend toward with a clear conscience.

Here’s part of the email I wrote her back, and maybe advice I would give in general to anyone thinking of teaching:

Your experience would depend enormously on what the school is like, so it helps that you know someone who is there. Ask what administration does to support teachers with discipline issues. Ask if there is any curriculum or any advisors/mentors available. Ask how frequently teachers are observed and what type of support is given if you are struggling. Seriously, any of those things could make or break your experience. Especially the discipline support.

Personally, I absolutely love teaching. But it also needs to be said that I work all day, all evening, and much of my weekends. I have more responsibility than I should ever have been given. Your first year, you are pretty much guaranteed to have the worst day of your life on a regular basis. I still love it, but I would never recommend it unless I was sure you totally understood all the downsides, because you can’t quit until June if you hate it.

That’s such a discouraging response. There are wonderful things about teaching, I promise.

2 Responses

  1. Shannon Fithian

    Thank you for being honest. I am applying to TFA and all I ever hear are the overly amazing stories of making a difference and having the best experience of your life. I was seeking an honest answer because I KNEW there was someone who wasn’t 100% content and I wanted a real life perspective. Your post didn’t change my pursuit, but it’s refreshing to hear honesty. Thank you.

  2. I never, never know what to say when people ask me what teaching is like or whether they should join TFA. I wind up sounding schizophrenic. “Umm…it really sucks horribly, I wanted to die so often my first year… but sometimes it’s great, I mean, I love my job! So…” *shrug*

    Someday I will figure out a graceful way to deal with this question. And then I will probably retire.

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