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Saturday, August 2, 2014

A reader talks about the TFA myth

From a reader:

Wow! I read the article (The Times Union's TFA puff piece), and I cannot believe someone actually wrote it who is not fiscally connected to TFA! Issues with the article are numerous:

1. First, the subheading is absurd, referring to these TFA teachers as "talented." Where is the proof??? That's as valid as saying that someone who earned a B.S. in Chemistry and Biology and had an 5 week internship before becoming a doctor is "talented." Please; broad, unproven statements mean nothing to someone who is somewhat intelligent.

2. The article professes that "principals actively request" TFA teachers; yeah, the ones that don't know any better do. The principals I have worked under had TFA (1st-3rd year teachers), and even though some were good, others were mediocre, and a few were awful, they markedly stay away from TFA now as TFA come and leave quickly. It is like having a constant stream of interns.

3. The article claims, "The alliance has been good for schools and students." Um, how? No proof, once again. Seriously, the statements like this are getting old.

4. "200" TFA members are a part of the system, and apparently, that accounts for only "3%" of teachers. Okay, so there are 200 teachers who might actually be committed to Jacksonville that need jobs, not people who are committed for 2 years and leave. 

5. At the conclusion, the writer calls this alliance a "highly effective initiative." Seriously, there is no proof for anything here. 

My experience with TFA teachers is mixed. There have been several good teachers, who I would actually want to stay beyond the commitment. Others come and leave thinking that they changed kids' lives, when in reality, they were just average for a first time teacher. Unfortunately, veteran teachers pour all of our time, energy, and knowledge into people who inevitably leave. Some TFA come with knowledge of how to manage a classroom or create decent lesson plans; usually, they majored in the subject area they are teaching or actually are college of education grads. Others come without even studying the subject area, with little knowledge of WHAT to teach, let alone HOW to teach it. They don't ask for help, and so they struggle through the year or years. Some could be really "great" one day, but 1, 2, or 3 years does not a "great" teacher make, and "great" teachers know this! 

Most TFA do teach in hard-to-staff schools; however, most teachers in Duval County teach in hard-to-staff schools. I have been one of them for 8 years; go figure, I (and many others) stayed. In the school where I teach, I have seen many TFA only teach AP and Honors classes. The idea that TFA is only teaching the most struggling students is a myth. The idea that TFA is correlated to "quality" is a myth. The idea that only young teachers can connect with students is a myth. Too much of TFA is a myth.

1 comment:

  1. Why do people become a TFA teacher? Is it true that college loans will be "forgiven" if a person fulfills the TFA contract?
    There has to be something that these people are getting by becoming a TFA, and then they only stay until the contract is fulfilled. It can't be because "they want to make a difference" because if that was the reward, they would stay longer than the 2 years the TFA contract calls for.