Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Dec 24 2010

10 thoughts before you apply

I was just on this blog and found an article about TFA that’s definitely worth reading. It’s here:

Granted, this article is harsh. It makes TFA sound like a miserable experience that anyone would be an idiot to join, and I just don’t think that’s always true. Yet I do think it is important to hear about the worst aspects of it before signing up, and there is plenty of truth to most of these points. Here’s my take:

#1 I think is unimportant. Welcome to the real world.

#2 was not my experience at all. Phoenix Institute was hard work and they definitely try to push until you might quit, but it was nowhere near as terrible and de-humanizing as this article says. Granted, I’ve heard our Institute here has improved dramatically in the last three years.

#3 is true, but isn’t the end of the world if you’ve saved money or set up loans.

#4 is true and sucks. Teachers spend way too large a percentage of an already small salary on buying things for their kids. But that’s all teachers, not just TFA.

#5 is a wonderful thing, not a downside. Did you read #2 and #4 about how much TFA watches and criticizes? Those people track your every move and are picky about every detail. If my boss were like that, I would never survive. Once you’re hired by a school district, TFA becomes mostly bark and little bite. The worst they can do to you is hold back your Americorps scholarship money, which would be sad but isn’t even close to getting fired. When they start going overboard with demands on your time and energy, it’s helpful to remember that they aren’t your real boss.

#6 happens to some people, but TFA tries really hard to avoid it and that’s part of the reason the acceptance rate is so low. This doesn’t upset me though; I think it’s important that school districts have the final say over who they hire and TFA can’t force people down their throats. If you can’t pass interviews at schools that have already agreed to accept TFA teachers, then maybe you need a different job. TFA will hire you to work in the office or something if nothing comes for you, I think.

#7. Yes. Misery.

#8. Amen. That’s the essence of why the first year is so hard. The only catch is that you have to be fair and mean, not cruel for no reason. The latter will make them rebel and ruin your life. The former will make them putty in your hands. This year, I am saccharine-sweet-”Aw honey, it’s so nice to see you, how can I help with that?”-nice most of the time, but I know I can back that up with a death glare that gets any kid to freeze and start behaving. I’ve scolded kids until they cried. I can be so awful in detentions that kids beg to leave because they aren’t used to me being so harsh. I’m not perfect at it, but I’m getting better and my classroom has improved accordingly. Be tough and scary when it’s warranted. Seriously.

#9 sounds like me in college. Except I ran marathons instead of climbing Everest. Teaching is harder, I promise.

#10. Read the article. It’s hilarious because it’s a little too true.

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