Wednesday, June 27, 2007


Life is good, went out to staff dinner and reminisced about last summer with one of the other RA's who worked with me then. Its crazy hot today, and I hate air conditioning- too much contrast for me to adjust to quickly.

Philosophical Rant: (it got long so I felt it deserved a warning)

My friend who is doing Teach For America, called me tonight, crying and seeking advice. While I'm always happy to give advice, support and a virtual shoulder, I question a program that sends a member to someone who has one semester of teaching experience. The supervisors have 2 years of experience, and were taught by people with just as little experience. There is so much to be said for the advice of an expert in your field- 2 years in the field doesn't get you to expert status- in anything. I admire everything that TFA does- getting college students into the field of education, and staffing schools that need the most help. But where are the veteran teachers? Where are the administrators that have watched young teachers struggle?

In my summer program the TA's are trained by teachers who work in the classroom full time. They are introduced to a new teaching method by engaging in it and practicing it for a full week before students ever arrive. They have additional training each morning before class- but not at ridiculous hours, taking into consideration the other duties that the TA has. This is summer camp. Its not the end of the world if TA's get put on a strenuous schedule because it only lasts a month- but the directors know better than to do that. The program has been going on for over 25 years and the original directors are still teaching- veterans who can tell you what to expect and how to deal with frequent issues that occur.

If a small program can figure this out- why can't a big one? The camp is funded almost entirely by grants, it works with students labeled 'at risk' and it starts with TA's who know nothing about the unique teaching methods used here, and usually who know nothing about teaching in general. Really, its not so different at all from TFA. Except we're happy, I left camp last summer eager to continue using a method that I believed in, that I understood. Questions are encouraged, explanations are given. These are basic tenets of any program seeking to create independent individuals- why doesn't TFA do this? I was surprised to hear that my education professors disapproved of TFA- I now understand. It makes me want to fix TFA, or start a different program- with a bunch of people who actually know what they're doing. What it really makes me want is- a way to eradicate the need for TFA. Its awful that schools are so desperate for teachers that they are willing to take a team of unlicensed recent grads being trained by a team of recently licensed individuals.

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