5 Ways TFA Prepares You to Be a Teacher
Are you considering teaching but not sure of the steps to take? Teach For America paves the way, even if you have no prior experience.
If you feel intimidated by the idea of stepping in front of a classroom of students for the first time, you’re not alone. The challenge can seem daunting, especially if you don’t have prior teaching experience, which is the case for most Teach For America corps members. But with TFA’s training and support programs and the community you will be joining, we hope to ease the transition and accelerate your growth as a classroom leader.
TFA has created a pathway to help you prepare for your first days as a teacher and continuously improve throughout your two-year commitment. We know that the hardest thing you may ever do in your career is stand in front of a classroom of students who expect you to lead a lesson. Some of those students will be easy to engage and others will need some convincing. No one expects you to know how to be a teacher right away, but we do think you have what it takes to be an amazing one. What does the initial training look like that will prepare you for Day 1? It consists of three phases:
- Onboarding: Prep for certification testing and getting hired at your school
- Kick-off: Meet your fellow corps members and learn about your region
- Pre-Service Training: Focus on learning, teaching, and refining
Throughout these phases you will work with staff in the region where you’re teaching to prepare for essential exams, attain your teaching certification, attend a summer training program that will prepare you for year one, work with a coach and other staff to continually improve your skills, and grow in community with fellow teachers-in-training.
Here are five important ways Teach For America prepares you to teach.
1. Getting Certified to Teach
You’re not required to have a background in education to apply to TFA. In fact, most TFA teachers—known as corps members—are considered “nontraditional” teachers, since they haven’t completed a traditional education program before starting the school year.
After you are accepted, receive your regional placement, and accept your offer, you can expect your training to begin. Through the onboarding phase, staff from your assigned region will help guide you through the process step-by-step to fulfill requirements and meet local deadlines to earn or transfer your license and get your full certification.
Most regions require you to complete one or more certification tests before attending summer training in order to become “highly qualified” in the subject you’ll teach. While some corps members may already be experts in the content that they’ll teach—such as biology majors who teach high school biology—others may need to dedicate significantly more time to preparing for their exams. Either way, this is typically a great way to begin familiarizing yourself with the material you’ll teach.
TFA staff members will help guide you through this process. They’ll make sure you fulfill initial requirements and meet deadlines before summer training. Many regions will host test prep webinars, provide study materials, and/or connect you with peers who have already completed requirements to help you better prepare.
2. Meet Fellow First-Year Teachers
Join the entire Teach For America corps from across the country for a week of virtual and in-person kick-off experiences. You’ll be welcomed into our thriving, diverse, and inclusive community of leaders. Begin to build friendships and camaraderie with fellow corps members and alumni that will support and sustain you as you embark on your first year of teaching.
5 Ways TFA Builds Strong Teacher Communities
3. Pre-Service Training—Learning, Teaching, & Refining
Over the summer, you’ll prepare to lead a classroom by participating in a multi-week, hands-on training program, typically referred to as “Pre-Service Training.” Your experience at this full-time summer training will lay the groundwork for your teaching practice.
To start, the learning will be focused on concepts that sit at the heart of our work, including culturally relevant pedagogy, anti-racist teacher leadership, universal design for learning, and social-emotional learning. As you learn these important concepts, you’ll be able to immediately apply them to the classroom.
You will engage in experiences like planning and rehearsing lessons, participating in group discussions, watching videos and models of teaching, and learning new concepts and practices through collaborative adult learning experiences.You’ll work alongside other corps members and teacher coaches in small groups to practice skills and analyze student progress.
You’ll establish a strong foundation that you’ll continue to hone throughout your time as a corps member. You’ll also build context and confidence that will help you quickly acclimate to your teaching environment when the school year begins.
4. Ongoing Coaching & Support in the Classroom
Throughout your two-year commitment, your placement region will provide a variety of learning experiences and support structures. This support is grounded in maximizing your students’ learning and building your leadership.
In addition to working alongside your peers, you’ll partner with TFA staff members and alumni to grow as a teacher and leader. You’ll be paired with a teaching coach, who will provide individualized support in goal setting, developing your skills, and expanding your knowledge. Many regions also host mentorship programs with alumni, professional development sessions, and other group events to help you establish a community of support.
5. Access to Education Programs for Teachers
In addition to the support you’ll receive from TFA staff, you’ll have access to nationally recommended resources, including online courses, planning templates, tracking systems, and sample assessments. You may also have the chance to attend national summits to learn alongside other teachers.
You may take classes with other corps members in the evenings and on weekends to earn your teaching certification. Many corps members also have the opportunity to earn a master’s degree while in the corps.
We partner with some of the best education programs and graduate schools in the country to help you meet requirements in two years while also working full-time.
For more details on certification and master's degree options
As a TFA corps member, you’ll have to balance all of your teaching responsibilities and training requirements with extracurricular activities and, of course, your personal life. It’s hard work, for sure, and you may face challenges that feel daunting. But we’re confident that you’ve got this and are embarking on this journey because it’s where you’re meant to be. The transformational change you’ll see in your students—and yourself, as you develop as a leader—will keep you inspired. And along the way, you’ll be supported by the TFA community and have access to some of the best teacher prep tools out there.