(Closed) Teach for america experience?

posted 7 years ago in Career
Post # 3
Member
487 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: April 2012

I just finished my grad degree in Education and a lot of my classmates were TFA so I can answer a few questions based off what they told me.

Post # 4
Member
376 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: September 2012

I have a really good friend from sorority that did TFA and LOVED it! 

Post # 5
Member
424 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: July 2012 - Muckenthaler Cultural Center

I’m an ’08 corps memeber who happened to go through a traditional teaching program before I joined! I also worked at TFA institute this past summer!

 

I enjoyed my experience and learned a lot, it’s actually where I met my fiance! If you are chosen you will have to commit to a 5 week training during the summer. The training will not afford you much, if any, wedding planning time so prepare for that! Also, the first year of teaching is the hardest and most time consuming so I would get a lot of your planning done now =) Feel free to PM me if you have any questions!

Post # 7
Member
228 posts
Helper bee

I have a friend who did this and to be honest, it sounds like she had a terrible experience.  She had very little training for the situation she was placed into — a very difficult school in Baltimore (actually, the same school that was used in the fourth season of The Wire).  Her students would injure each other in class, parents threatened her, etc.  It has been years since she did this, and she is still traumatized by it.  I’m sure many other people have good experiences, but it probably depends a lot of where you’re placed.

Post # 8
Member
1829 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: July 2011

I am an ’09 TFAer and let me be brutally honest – it will be the hardest thing you will ever do in your life.  I was a ‘mature’ corps member as I was 30 when I started and had worked as a Child Protection Social Worker around the world for the previous seven years.  I knew what I was in for but it still couldn’t have fully prepared me for the experience.

I am definitely not sorry I did it but you need to be prepared to have absolutely no life for at least the first year, but really both years of your teaching experience.  The first year of teaching is ridiculously hard whether you go through TFA or a traditional program.  I worked about 16 hours per day just trying to get on top of everything and I never felt caught up.   You are also a full-time grad student during the first year – we had 8 hours of evening classes per week through a university.  Some regions do their courses online, some only have classes for 4 hours per week, but in my region, it was 8 hours per week.  When you’re trying to figure out how/what to teach the next day, you really don’t have time for grad school BS.  

TFA does give you a lot of support but they also have very high expectations, which is fine because we all need to hold high expectations for every one of our students, but when things are really going pear shaped for you, they’re not exactly comfy, cosy shoulders to cry on.  One of the key qualities they look for in a corps member is perseverance and an ability to problem solve – if you’re not willing to take the weight of the world on your shoulders, this is not for you.

That being said, TFA is EXTREMELY difficult to get into.  When I applied, there was a less than 10% acceptance rate – with the poor economy, I think that number has gone down even further.   It is a long, time consuming interview process (covers a period of more than two months) so just be prepared to put forth a lot of effort and maybe not have anything result from it.

I think everyone’s experiences are different.  I taught in a traditional public school both years (as opposed to charter schools) and it was the most difficult situation of my life.  Whereas charter schools have flexibilty in who they allow into their school and don’t have to follow the bureaucratic bullshit to the extent of the public school system, the traditional schools are slaves to the system.   I taught in one of the roughest neighbourhoods in Chicago and extreme violence in my classroom was the norm.  I taught middle school aged kids and drugs, gangs, shootings, fights, and extreme poverty were a part of my daily life.  I am so thankful my background in social work prepared me for some of that as I was able to work through it but if you drink the TFA kool aid, they will have you believing that it just takes a bit of believing in your kids and they will all magically develop a love of learning and become model students.   I wholeheartedly support believing in your kids 100% but just know that it’s not the sunshine and rainbows TFA would have you believe.

I think it’s a very worthwhile endeavour and if you choose to go down this path, I wish you all the best.  I am very grateful I had the opportunity to participate in such a rewarding organisation but I am also EXTREMELY grateful it’s over now.  I thought I wanted to be a teacher as a permanent career change, but now the thought of going back into a classroom makes me cringe.  I think I will stick with social work, but I like to think that I may have just made a tiny bit of a difference to a few kids in my two years in the program.  

ETA:  Sorry for the novel length post!  I just thought I would provide some first hand experience here.

Post # 9
Member
1829 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: July 2011

@instantcoffee:   This sounds similar to my experience.  I had my classroom door kicked down by a student who was angry.  One of my kids was shot by another of my students.  Our kids had to go through metal detectors every morning and knives were regularly confiscated, guns occasionally so.  Drugs were sold on the playground and in the cafeteria.  Physical fights were a near daily occurrence, oftentimes ending with bloodshed – I quickly learned to stay out of them.  I’m not about to step between two 14 year old boys intent on beating the crap out of each other.  A few pushes and being the accidental recipient of a few of their blows taught me that lesson quite quickly.  

It’s hard not to get caught up in the despair and cycle of hopelessness that permeates some of these communities, but there are always little moments that make your day and make you think that you just might be having a tiny bit of an impact on someone’s life.

Post # 10
Member
228 posts
Helper bee

@Ree723: I really can’t imagine what the experience must be like — I really admire you for going through with it.  I wasn’t going to bring this up (didn’t want to scare the OP too much…sorry!), but my friend literally has months of time of those two years in Baltimore that she can’t remember at all.  She has blocked it out.  It’s been eight years and I can still see her physically react to her (remaining) memories of the experience when it gets brought up. 🙁

Post # 11
Member
487 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: April 2012
Post # 12
Member
1231 posts
Bumble bee

Ohh thanks for posting this! I was also thinking about joining. There are no jobs and i’ve heard a lot of people say that TFA looks good on a resume. I am already certified and have my masters and had a year of experience in an inner city school with disrespectful students, parents that used us as a baby sitting service while they went about their day playing with their government paid for iphones, and administration that just didn’t want to be there. Is it worth it for me?

Post # 13
Member
424 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: July 2012 - Muckenthaler Cultural Center

I went through a traditional teaching program and had my credential when I joined TFA. I’ve wanted to be a teacher since I was 5!

I learned A LOT in TFA. I was taught nothing about data driven instruction in undergrad and that’s what it’s all about right now.

I recieved a ton of support from TFA and made incredible friends. I had a very positive corps member experience and most of the people I know did also. 

That being said, I am in my 4th year of teaching and I now, for the first time, have solid classroom management and lessons. 

Wherever you teach it will be HARD. TFA is just a good way in. 

Post # 14
Member
487 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: April 2012

With the low acceptance rate, I would think it would actually be a waste of energy to apply considering you could already be hired without having to go through it.  I would move to a school district that is hiring before going through TFA if I was already licensed.  If you’re willing to teach Title I, it’s just such an easier route.  I’m getting calls and e-mails from principals still in January looking for teachers for Title I schools all the time.  I decided not to go into the classroom but Chicago, Charlotte, and DC were the places I was looking and they’re contacting me anyway.

Post # 15
Member
1471 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: August 2011

Grr… I just typed out a response and then my computer ate it. 

I was a 2007 Chicago corps member. I don’t have time to re-type at the moment, but I would be happy to PM with anyone who is interested in a pretty balanced review of her time in the program. I’m very glad I did it, it shaped a lot of who I am today, I learned a lot, but it wasn’t pretty. I continue to work in the school system, although not as a teacher, but immediately after my time in the corps, I went to grad school. There are people to whom I recommend the program, and others who I think wouldn’t be a good fit. If you want more info, feel free to send a message!

Post # 16
Member
3220 posts
Sugar bee
  • Wedding: February 2012

What age do you want to teach? You can find decent programs/students through TFA– I’ve had some friends at charter schools or teaching kindergarten who actually enjoyed themselves. (Though I’ve also heard lots of horror stories.) 

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