AYPWIP?

I am a recent convert to Facebook—an act that caused amazement and guffaws when so-called friends of mine discovered that I, the technologically challenged geezer that I am–was finally on fb. Yesterday, I read a late-afternoon post asking for advice from “any teacher-type friends” for ideas for a five minute lesson that would be appropriate for K-12 students. Being the helpful sort, I jumped right in with several good ideas, and sent them on their way.

However, as I scrolled down the page, I came upon the original post, only to find that this lesson was part of an application for Teach for America (TFA). Ay-yay-yay!

I felt like I had been hoodwinked; however, it was nobody’s fault but my own. Lesson learned? It may be best to scroll first; respond later. LOL

You see, I am not terribly enamored of the TFA organization and their goal to take over the world–one teaching job at a time.  

My comments here and elsewhere are not aimed against the current TFA corps members working in Delaware schools. However, I certainly wish that they were not here in our community-based public schools. And, I was disappointed to discover that this young person was applying to become a TFA corps member.

I am not taken with the concept that anyone can teach. I am not a fan of home schooling, although everyone is obviously entitled to do this, no matter how inconsistent the results. I am a believer in teachers and teaching and public education–I believe in the kids who come to our classes day after day. I have faith in the education profession and the dedicated, trained, certified, licensed, caring professionals who work with our students.

I am appalled by the deprofessionalization of teaching. While there are several forces undermining my profession, TFA is the most egregious.

Working teachers see teaching as a profession, not as a drop-in/drive-by avocation. We welcome anyone who is or is on their way to becoming an effective teacher. We welcome anyone who wants to teach long term–someone who wants to make a career of teaching.  We are not impressed by organizations that encourage their members to view teaching as a stepping stone or a proving ground or as temporary employment until (a) something better comes along or (b) they get the chance to fulfill their real goal with an MBA, medical, or law degree.

Additionally, TFA does NOT have a monopoly on youth, enthusiasm, or vigor. New teachers fresh out of college, coming from degreed education programs are pretty much universally young and enthusiastic and willing to give the job their all. They too are presently unencumbered by family responsibilities. I see first-year teachers in my district year after year. They all seem to have an abundance of energy and dedication. Where does TFA get off acting as if only their corps members have the will and the wherewithal to get the job done?

As far as that goes, there are plenty of aging baby boomers–myself included–who are still bright, active, committed, and highly effective teachers in Delaware schools. Do not write us off because you imagine that we are over the hill. We may be older than dirt, but we can still engage a class of middle school “hoppers” and we continue to get the job done.

Teachers generally agree that one does not really get into the groove of teaching until sometime between 5-10 years of steady experience. Each school year can be vastly different than the year before–every single group of new 6th graders is unlike any other group we have ever had before. You start all over again every September. Teachers say all the time, “You would think that this would get easier after a while.” It never does. Not a complaint–just an observation.

When I entered an education program at Goucher College in 1970, I was shocked and offended the first time that I heard the old saw: “Those that can, do; those that can’t, teach.” In forty years, not much has changed the public’s perspective on the value of teachers and teaching. It cuts me to the quick.

Teaching is viewed by too many people as easy and undemanding.  Some folks seem to believe that anyone with a good head on his/her shoulders could be a teacher, if only he/she wanted to. But, why would he/she ever want to? Teaching is currently perceived as so undesirable that some people believe the following:

  • That it is mostly the uninspired, undecided, uncaring, and less intelligent among us who actually choose to go into teaching.
  • That if the individuals teaching our children were really capable of anything more demanding or worthwhile, certainly they would leave teaching to go do it.

 And, yet, I still teach.

 Finally, it is hard to see the incorporation of TFA in any school district as REFORM. For the most part, they come, they teach, they leave.  What kind of potential does that have for real, long-term, embedded education reform?

Are you pondering what I’m pondering?

A poster from the Seattle 2010 blog states: “The question I must ask is: Do we want a system of two-year teachers who can bail anytime they want? Surely, for any teacher, the first year is just getting oneself grounded and trying to find one’s way through the dark. I must assume that the second year, for TFA and traditional teachers alike, is when they start to shape themselves as a professional educator. But one stays and the other goes.”

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One Response to AYPWIP?

  1. Jeannette says:

    You didn’t finish the old saw: “Those who can, do, those who can’t, teach, and those who can’t teach become administrators.” The further someone is from the classroom, the more they forget what it’s like to be with the students. You have 20-30 individuals at all different points, and teachers are expected to get them all to the same place. And it’s the teachers held accountable for failing students, even if the students were 3 or 4 levels behind and the teacher has made 2 years of progress with them. Sorry, the kids are still not on grade level!
    A former student is doing TfA in Florida and I’m on her email list. She tries so hard with her students, and was surprised when they bombed their finals, even though she has done all sorts of formative assessments and they were all ‘getting it’. As an honors/AP student she had never really seen this part of the population before. She is nervous about being judged solely by her students’ performance.

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