Finally, TFA isn’t going away. It’s too powerful. We also have to acknowledge that without it, we would have approximately 8,000 fewer teachers where we need them most. We have to try to get them to see how to work together with experienced teachers, their associations and unions, and universities. We need to have them see how better training of their inexperienced teachers will help them achieve their stated goals. Coalition is a better word than confrontation."Check out the full blog at http://dcgmentor.com/?page_id=22#comment-5 And here is my comment:
Interesting perspective on TFA. Your position as field specialist means you get to see the classroom experiences of these unprepared novice teachers. It is heart-breaking to hear stories of just how unprepared and even brainwashed these well-meaning kids truly are. Their young idealism is being abused.
Still, I am concerned when people say we need to work with a group like TFA. While the young people themselves may have good intentions, the end game for the organization is one I cannot and will not support. When it began, TFA simply looked to place its members in districts with teacher shortages and was at best a stop gap. The only claim about the novice teachers' abilities was that "they were better than a string of substitutes". In the early days, there was talk that TFA hopefully should someday become unnecessary.
Today, however, the organization has morphed into a powerhouse hotbed for billionaire's money and politician's praise. TFA now has the audacity to claim their novices are actually "better" than veteran teachers. As you pointed out, this is simply not true for the vast majority of core members. But TFA's rhetoric itself has become dangerous. By claiming "experience doesn't matter", TFA empowers adminstrators and lawmakers to save a buck, fire older teachers, and fill positions with these untrained novices. And as an extra, these kids do tend to be more compliant, obedient, and almost never stick around long enough to collect a pension. Heck, they spend so much time with TFA's organization, they don't even have time to become involved in their unions.
I don't know how it is in New York, but here in Chicago there is NO shortage of teachers. At the last open job fair they had (more than 3 years ago), there were far more teachers looking for work than schools hiring. Shrinking budgets mean there are more teachers than ever searching for jobs. Add to that, school closures and turnaround staff newly looking for work, and you have plenty of highly-qualified teachers wanting to get back in the classroom.
TFA has controlled the media and therefore the message for too long. But that's all the more reason for career educators to speak up for our profession, and more importantly for the children whose lives are being negatively impacted because of this program. I am a special education teacher and I believe it is immoral and illegal to put an untrained teacher into a special ed position. TFA does this all the time. That is wrong.
I will not stay silent on this. Putting untrained novices into schools which need the MOST highly-trained and effective teachers is an injustice I will not let slide.
I have heard many educators talk about "working together" with corporate reformers like TFA's CEO Wendy Kopp. In fact, I am writing this post just days after NEA's president Dennis Van Roekel partnered with Kopp to write a USA Today article about "improving America's teachers". (Note the language: teachERS to be improved not their teachING. It speaks to a worldview where teachers are good not based on experience or training, but on some sort of innate qualities, probably the same ones which get people into better universities. That last bit was sarcasm, by the way. What a classist and racist way to sort and quantify "good people" from "bad".) See the article here: http://www.usatoday.com/news/opinion/forum/story/2011-12-20/teachers-education-public-schools/52121868/1?AID=4992781&PID=4166869&SID=y2200ify8yar This odd partnership certainly stirred up the blogosphere and Twitter for a few days.
As I alluded to in my comment, I do not believe this is the time to "cooperate" with organizations that stand for everything I am against. I will not form coalitions with TFA, with DFER, with Stand for Children or StudentsFirst, with Duncan, with Bloomberg, with Rhee, with Rahm or any other corporate education reformer who is actively pursuing the destruction of public education.
And to throw up our hands and say, "well they're not going anywhere" or "we have no choice, they're too powerful" is ridiculous. If I see a massive injustice occurring before my eyes, am I to just shake my head and say, "well they're so powerful...guess I'll just play along." Did Ghandi shake his head and cooperate with the British Empire? Did Martin Luther King Jr just accept that African Americans would always be treated like second class citizens?
This is not a mere difference in perspectives. Not even in ideologies. This is not the old "whole language" versus "phonics" reading debate or even the history curriculum battles of past education wars. This is a fundamental fight between those who would sell our education system to the highest bidder while actively ignoring the poverty and inequalities that infest our nations's schools and those who stand for a quality equitable public education for all. And it will take a fight, as all social change requires, to actually change the discourse.
Teach for America is a program that damages children, and its damage is being compounded by its influence, money, and power. Those of us who understand the actual impact of the program NEED to speak out against it. It is our moral obligation. For me, I know I can no longer sit back and let schools fill special education positions with these untrained novices without even a word in protest. So I write my Congressmen to oppose alternative certification programs which do not prepare teachers in advance. I am vocal on the comments sections in articles, blogs and on twitter. I WILL fight for the right for EVERY CHILD TO HAVE A FULLY-PREPARED TEACHER for every single day of their school career.
Please, do NOT remain silent and let groups like TFA just take the spotlight. They don't get it without a fight. And for God's sake, don't ever, no not ever, partner with them.