An alum recently wrote a piece for Slate. Today, three members of the Teach For America family are sharing their responses. Read our other posts here and here. We welcome other thoughts in the comments.
Recently, a young man approached me and said, “Mr. Chambers, I am in my final interview for Teach for America.” I stopped in my tracks as I had never taught him. To my surprise, he only knew me by word of mouth because I taught his college roommate. At that moment, something more powerful than me was happening. As teachers, even though we may never teach someone, our influence is still felt. Because I taught before him and led the way, he will now go on to teach in Eastern North Carolina – the same region I taught in years ago.
As a 21-year veteran teacher and a 1992 corps member, I have weathered many trends in education. I know the value and effectiveness of Teach for America (TFA) teachers – and even after all these years, I’ve reinvested in TFA by working to train new teachers. Lately, there has been so much skepticism around TFA, and many of the critics fail to acknowledge the important work that corps members do every day to eliminate the opportunity gap in the country.
Teaching is hard. I remember my first year. I cried. I called in sick because I was not prepared to do the job. I struggled. I had not learned to manage my time nor the workload. After 21 years, I am still learning, and to do this job and do it well requires time and adequate support from as many resources as possible. Every school where I have worked, teachers have left, and sometimes before the end of a nine-week grading period. The fact of the matter is that no one is really ready to teach – even those who come through alternative certification programs.
As a teacher, I’ve dedicated my career to encourage critical thinking and further knowledge. But the organized movement against TFA, and its regurgitated talking points and misleading mythical criticisms have fallen short.