Wednesday, May 21, 2008

How TFA harms education...

I originally posted a version of this post over in the comments at The Socratic Method:

While I admire the mission of TFA, I am starting to have an issue with what I perceive as TFA elitism. For such a tiny percentage of classroom teachers, they have a large percentage of the education media coverage. They fill a niche, but TFA is never going to fix the system. Furthermore, the focus on overachieving young do-gooders minimizes the endemic issues present in the education system; poor education schools, poor pedagogy, and poor working conditions.

Imagine if instead of focusing on the glory boys of TFA, the media started focusing on school districts like Gering, which D-Edreckoning has profiled. By doing nothing more than adopting a curriculum and pedagogy that has been around for 20 years, the school has made amazing progress. They haven't started recruiting Ivy League graduates, they haven't thrown dollar after dollar at the program, they haven't relied on the public social welfare programs; all they have done is improve the way they teach.

Will the media pay attention... of course not, not while they have the glamour boys of TFA to profile... because it’s a much more interesting story to read about a Yale graduate working in the inner city using sheer strength of will to teach low income students, than it is to read about some small midwestern school district using methods like direct instruction. After all, if only those teachers would try a little harder... the system would be fixed. Please...

Update: Obviously TFA hating is starting to get trendy. Check out Teach For America-Debunking the propaganda. I also found a great summary of studies done of TFA effectiveness over at the NCATE website, of course I think the NCATE is as big a problem as TFA.

For the record...(what really scares me)

For the record, TMAO at Teaching in the 408 has been one of my favorite bloggers, and a prime motivating factor in my drive to become a teacher after I retire, but ever since I have found out he is resigning, I have been a bit annoyed.

In his latest post, TMAO goes through all the reasons why he didn't resign, including this last one.

I’m burnt-out. This is another one of those things I hear teachers say frequently, and more often than not it prompts an immediate, and probably unfair, response: Burnt-out? Fool, you gotta be on. fire. first. then maybe we can talk about burnt-out.
I'm not happy unless I'm putting the best product in front of kids, but I'm not necessarily happy in the constant construction and revision of that product. I'm not happy unless I use work hours 80-82 to take kids to the District All-Star Basketball Game, but I'm not necessarily happy working hours 80-82. I'm not happy unless I'm being the teacher I see in my head, but the process of finding that guy and living as him no longer makes me happy.
I'm sorry, but what he describes sounds exactly like burnout. I just completed 18 credit hours in one semester with a 3.8 GPA, but I had to take the semester off. While I enjoyed learning, I enjoyed my classes, and I enjoyed the sense of satisfaction I got making progress towards my degree; I just didn't enjoy studying anymore. I didn't enjoy the long weekend's writing papers. I quite simply was burntout.

Perhaps it's the military NCO in me, but I call it like I see it. Instead of trying to make play word games about the reason he resigned, I am much more interested in what he thinks the system could have done to prevent his burnout. What could of he done differently to prevent his leaving the profession?

Supposedly it's not because he wasn't supported, or prepared, or successful, but it must be something... because if there is nothing the system could of done better, and there is nothing he could of done better, then it seems to me the whole concept of education reform is f*cked.

Perhaps what really annoys me is that in his resignation, I have to face my own insecurities. If the system can't keep a bright, articulate, dedicated teacher like TMAO, then what chance does someone like me have?

I'm scared because if I were his situation, then I would probably be resigning as well.

Disclaimer: Despite rumors to the contrary, I am not reconsidering my future career choice. Us military types can't let TFA'ers get all the glory. :)