- 8 years ago
- Wedding: June 2013
I am not/have not been a part of TFA, however, I work at a Title 1, public charter middle school. Title 1 means that 82% of our students are on Free or Reduced lunch and are considered at risk. On average, our students are 1-2 grade levels behind when they arrive at our school. We are college prep with an intense curriculum, a highly structured classroom environment and a strict behavior/discipline system.
We have 10 TFA teachers (out of 35 total), and yes, they do struggle in their first year. But they also get a great deal of support from both the program, but mostly from our school. We have Assistant Principals for every grade, mentor teachers and a day 5 program where we actually have a whole day to do planning at school (no teaching during that day).
TFA intentionally places its teachers in struggling schools, but the reality is that every school is different. You need to do your hw and do it well before committing to either the program or a school. My school provides tremendous support and our students show incredible improvement, but it is still hard work. However, a school literally down the street has teachers quitting every year, students dropping at alarming rates and they have nearly 60% of their teachers from TFA.
Be sure you are going into the program with the intent to work hard, struggle, but also be rewarded by the small things. Personally, I am not a fan of TFA teachers who are only in it for the “two year gig,” but to each their own. I have seen amazing teachers go through the program and I have seen not so great teachers go through it. The ones who succeed know what they are committing to and find the school that supports them and their work.
Good luck with your research and your decision!
I’m responding because I was TFA (’07 Chicago Corps.) I’m now a behavior specialist at a K-8 school in my home state, and I do continue to work for TFA through their application process. I will write more when my 8-month-pregnant self isn’t so tired. Mostly this post was just so I can find this conversation again…
I think TFA is great.. if you’re a teacher. There is no possible way that a month of training can prepare you to be a classroom teacher.
It’s an extreme environment, so be prepared for that. My SIL did it, and was taunted relentlessly about her race in the classroom (she’s white and was in a nearly all-black school). She had a desk thrown at her the week after she found out she was pregnant and quit on the spot.
She was teaching high schoolers, though, and was perhaps a little out of her league (she’s a very small person and was surrounded by large aggressive teenagers)
I am a teacher who went about teaching in the traditional route rather than through something like TFA. However, I have a good friend who is currently in the middle of her first year with TFA. She ends up calling me all the time for advice because (and this is her saying this, not me) she feels like she is not prepared or qualified to be teaching her students. She has middle school students and often ends up using the lesson plans I have shared with her because she is so overwhelmed. She is also in a VERY rough school, which is often where TFA teachers are placed.
I’m not saying not to do it, but I will tell you she is miserable. She has said that she thinks she would enjoy teaching if she were qualified but spends all her time just trying to get her head above water…
Even if student teaching and educational theory don’t fully prepare you for your first day, teachers go to college for a reason. I personally would have drowned my first year of teaching had I not had post-secondary training first!
Just for the record, I went through a traditional teaching program and my first teaching job was at a school that gets a lot of TFAs. I don’t think I was any better prepared for the classroom than my colleagues who were in the TFA program. It’s a really difficult placement even with the best training. A first year teacher in an area that has TFA placement is going to be hard whether you’re a TFA or traditionally trained teacher. All the TFAs I know are still doing great things in education, and making big strides to improve the areas that are hard to staff with the highest need.
I did TFA, but left after a year when my school closed down. It was both the worst and best (or rather, most transformative) experience of my life.
Honestly, I think it really depends on the person — and there’s no predicting who will be successful. I did great in the training (which IS extremely cultish, like someone previously mentioned, and in no way really prepares you for your placement), but the actuality of day-to-day teaching in an inner-city middle school was an entirely different situation.
I don’t want to be negative about it because I have seen people be wonderfully successful… but it’s certainly not for everyone, and it will be ten times harder than you think it will be. If you want to be a career teacher, I’d STRONGLY suggest going through a traditional program instead.
So what is the traditional way of becoming a teacher? Do you go for your masters after obtaining a bachelors in a particular subject or is it more specialized than that?
A friend of mine is a professor and taught for a year in the TFA program and she really turned me off it. She said that out of a class of 32, only 6 of her students actually wanted to be teachers. The remaining students were those who simply wanted a free master’s degree from JHU. As a result, a majority of graduates are thrown into teaching in urban schools, where children need highly qualified and devoted teachers, with no passion for teaching. This causes an extreme disservice for the students.
Trust me, if you want to be a teacher you need to know in your heart that you LOVE teaching and that you sincerely want to help your students. Otherwise, you are just adding to the problem that plagues our urban schools and hurting your students in the long run.
The traditional route becoming a teacher is generally by going through a credential program at an accredited university. I did mine in conjunction with my undergrad. However, I went on to get my education specialist (teaching special education) credential post-grad and many of my classmates were getting their general ed credential then. You take classes and do different student teaching placements. For my general education credential I did 5 different student teaching placements total (it isn’t always that many). You then take a series of tests (depending on your state, in CA we have a LOT, but other states aren’t as bad I hear) and file for your credential. I’m sure every state is different, but I think that is the general route. So basically: classes at a university -> student teaching -> tests -> credential. Contact the credential department at universities in your area and they’ll have more information on your state’s requirements and process I’m sure!
Thanks everyone for your experiences/thoughts/opinions – I really appreciate the feedback. 🙂
I applied in 08′ & made it through to the last round of interviews. I think the clincher for why I didn’t get in had something to do with my response to some question about whether I was willing to work without sleep, heating/air, through sickness, with no support system, & students that hate me…. Of course my answer was that I would do the best I can but I’m not going to make myself sick trying to do a job. I don’t think they liked that….
That, and most of the other people in my interview groups had gone to school to be teachers, whereas I was in school for religious studies (but had alot of teaching experience)…
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