Although my current school has zero TFA members, my previous school was a revolving door for the “brilliant” TFA movement. At one point it seemed we had more TFA members than legitimate teachers.
I have maintained friendships with several of the TFA members, but their personalities and capabilities aren’t what turned me away. It’s the whole model and idea behind the company. In case you’re unfamiliar with Teach for America, the gist is that recent college graduates are fast-track trained to work in the nation’s worst urban school districts.
The process is simple: realize you don’t know what the hell to do after graduation and decide that teaching can’t be that hard. Plus, changing the world is a great résumé builder. Apply and gain acceptance, especially if you are a male or a minority. Then spend the summer (approximately 6-8 weeks) working with inner-city kids in a highly supervised environment. Finally, get “hired” at a school district where most of your salary is paid for by the TFA corporation.
So let’s summarize: you aren’t adequately trained but you’ll get hired over a fully trained teacher because your salary is subsidized by a corporation. Fair? Not exactly.
We all know that the most qualified isn’t necessarily the one hired. It’s all about the money.
Within the four years I worked at my previous school, we had TFA members for three. That totaled at least fourteen teaching positions that were given to TFA over highly-qualified educators.
However, this isn’t even the bubble-bursting piece of information that ultimately turned me off of the corporation. TFA members are only required to work in the schools for two years.. Yes. Two.
After two years, only 3/14 were still educators in an urban environment. The other 11 were scooped up to work for TFA doing recruiting and other operational duties. After their two year stint a new cycle of members come in and the process repeats itself, never allowing continuity, consistency, or teacher retention for the already at-risk urban school.
On top of all this, I personally find it demeaning to lead others to believe that, after a mere two years at a job, one would be considered an expert, enough to recruit, train, and lead others into this profession. I’m currently in my seventh year of teaching just intermediate elementary and I learn and change daily!
While the fact remains that urban areas need good teachers, TFA belittles the struggle by allowing administrators to hire long-term temps who are then swooped up by the corporation rather than being encouraged to remain in the teaching field.