At institute, new corps members will learn, teach, reflect, and emerge ready to start the school year as teachers.
January 22, 2020
Welcome to Teach for America’s institute, an intensive summer immersion program required of all TFA corps members. Through a mix of training, teaching practice, and reflection, you will be prepared to enter the classroom in the fall.
As a corps member, you must attend and complete institute, regardless of your previous teaching experience or degree. Institute is not a single place or time. There are different institutes throughout the country, each with its unique on-boarding, schedule, and classroom experiences. You are assigned to institute by region; many regions join “national” institutes, which bring corps members from several regions together to one location, while others hold a local “regional” institute held for just their own corps members.
With 19 institutes in total, be mindful of your assigned institute’s specific requirements. National—and most regional— institutes house corps members in college campus dormitories for the summer. You’ll spend most of each day at school sites teaching summer school.
You should plan to attend every day of training, though advanced notice of schedule conflicts may permit one day of leave. Institutes vary in length from five weeks to eight weeks and start in either May or June. Induction—a mandatory networking and orientation event—may occur earlier in the spring, or it may be wrapped into the full summer training.
When institute is in session, breakfast, lunch, dinner, and housing are provided or covered via a stipend. You will not receive a salary during summer training, and your first paycheck comes sometime after the start of the school year in the late summer or early fall.
You are responsible for your travel expenses to and from institute (and any other mandatory gatherings, such as orientation and induction into your region). You are also responsible for other living expenses, such as healthcare, besides room and board.
Transportation is provided between the housing and off-site locations. Should you choose to bring a personal vehicle, you are responsible for parking costs. Attendees may bring spouses and children, but you may have to pay for the expenses of additional family members.
You can apply for need-based grants and no-interest loans to help cover your expenses during this transitional period. Funding packages are determined based on your demonstrated need, cost of moving, and cost of living expenses in your assigned region. You can apply for transitional support at the time of your final interview and again once you’re admitted to the corps, but be mindful that this limited funding is distributed across thousands of corps members.
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You are expected to complete prep work before attending TFA institute, including background reading and videos to familiarize you with TFA’s mission and values, your role as a teacher, and TFA’s theory of leadership. Some regional institutes require additional prework as well.
You also will have to complete background checks and medical clearances, such as a physical exam and proof of vaccinations. Some institutes require additional certification exams. For example, corps members assigned to the Bay Area must complete California teacher credential exams before arriving at institute. TFA does not cover the financial costs of these testing requirements directly, but transitional financial support can be applied to these expenses as well.
What Happens at Institute
At institute, you’ll begin instruction on crucial teaching skills, such as creating a classroom vision, lesson planning, and tracking student data. After the basics, you’ll engage in hands-on experiences teaching summer classes. You will work with coaches and many TFA alumni, who will offer tips and feedback. Summer school subjects and grades vary based on region and institute, and don’t necessarily correspond with what you’ll be teaching in the fall; this is determined through the hiring process and state mandates.
Institute will cover specifics regarding your region’s education system as well as training in culturally responsive teaching and what it means to live out TFA’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusiveness. You will learn about your future students’ cultural backgrounds and develop teaching strategies to meet students where they are without compromising their high educational standards.
Networking and relationship building are fundamental at institute. To grow, thrive, and make the type of change that’s needed—and that goes beyond traditional expectations—requires the support of others. Utilizing the broad, diverse network of leaders you’ll meet at institute will be key to your success and experience. Most groups use social media and shared online platforms to connect beforehand and give advice.
The process can be challenging, but TFA alumni credit institute for some of their best memories and most long-lasting relationships. In this fast-paced environment, you will fail, succeed, and grow immensely. During this time, you’ll meet potential colleagues, partners, and friends—a whole new community.
Most importantly, you will emerge ready to lead in the classroom as a teacher capable of having a profound impact on your students’ lives. Take the first step by applying to be part of the 2020 Teach For America corps.
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