Anyone participate in Teach for America?

I’m going to be a junior next year, and I’m considering joining the Teach for America program after I graduate. For those of you unfamiliar, the program is of the same organization as Americorps and hires recent graduates for two years to teach anywhere from K-12 in poor urban and rural areas. Participants are paid the salary of a starting teacher and is given an extra $4500 at the end of each year to help pay for student loans or to save for graduate school.

Has anyone done or worked with anyone in this program? I’d love to hear any information that dopers have to share…

I’m sorry to turn this into a debate - maybe I should start another thread. But I’m bothered by this whole idea.

Teachers should be professionals. It shouldn’t be charity work, done by students. Nobody would suggest we send out fresh college grads to be doctors for two years. Why is this OK for teachers?

It’s tough for me to be hard on this because it IS a nice idea, and an inventive way to deal with teacher shortages. But in the end I have no choice but to few this as a failure of our country to solve this problem through more appropriate means.

Again, sorry for hijacking. If there’s interest in discussing this further I’ll open a thread in GD.

That, of course, should have been “view” this problem, etc…

Recently I have spoken with some friends about this. The consensus is that you should not do it if you plan on making teaching your career. It is too intense; you will burnout on teaching.

However if you are approaching this from the standpoint of giving back to a community, within a limited timeframe it can be a good experience. It is not easy, though.

Surely this isn’t a Federal program!?!? I don’t see anything in the Constitution about teaching kids to read.

BTW, I think if teachers at the government schools can’t do their jobs and teach kids to read and write, then they should be fired. Screw this shit about hiring extra “tutors” to assist the teachers.

Barking Spider, you have to finish that arguement if you want it to be defendable:

Teachers should be fired **and replaced with . . . **

We are suffering from an insane teacher shortage. Rual and inner-city areas are having trouble just finding enough warm bodies to fill their classrooms. Unless you have a plan for what t odo with the kids when there are no teachers, you need to come up with a better approach.

And NightRabbit, teaching is unimaginably difficult. Teaching in less-than-stellar schools in a stange place where you don’t know anybody is going to be mind-bogglingly difficul, and, I imagene, lonely. It can also be incredibly rewarding, but it isn’t something I would do if you don’t enjoy dong hard things.

Since you’ve got a year or so, I would take me down to your local school system office and sign up to be a sub next year. (Do it now: the paperwork can be crazy). No amount of observing in classes compares with the experience of being alone in one, and if you enjoy that, than I would continue on with the program. But if subing one day a week (or whatever you can fit in your schedule) sends you home crying and makes you lose sleep, then you might want to rethink it.

No, but I was an americorp*vista…which, as far as I know, still has no connection to any organizations besides Americorps and City-year; not even the Peace corps. Not all of the “volunteer” programs are connected.

I second the subbing during your senior year to see how you like it idea, but be forewarned that some states require you to have a bachelors to even be a substitute (Iowa, for one, there may be others). Depending on shortages, of course, they may be more or less willing to waive that.

Let me amend that last statement: Googling around, it seems substitute requirements vary more by school district than by state. I was familiar with a schoold istrict in Iowa which required a bachelors to sub, but that may not be true across the state. In any case, check around to see where you will be able to sub, if you want to try that plan.

If teachers at the government schools are unable to do their jobs and teach kids, then those kids should be issued vouchers to pay for a real school with real teachers who are able to teach kids to read and write.

Also,I don’t believe we are suffering from a teacher shortage. If we would only stay at the normal ratio of 30 students to 1 teacher, we wouldn’t need any more teachers at all. Its only the liberal teachers unions, which only wants more dues paying members, that insists on a 20-1 student-teachers ratio.

“Also, I don’t believe we are suffering from a teacher shortage…”

Believe what you like, you’re wrong. There is a serious shortage of teachers in rural and inner city communities. In general there is a shortage of Special Ed, bilingual, math and technology teachers. For example, in New York, 45.7% of teachers are 50 or older – in otherwords, will be looking at retirement within the next 5 years. 47%!!!

Teach For America is not a “tutoring” program which is supposed to supplement a teacher who is not suceeding. It is a program which places vounteers in schools which cannot for whatever reason aquire the teachers they need. It is an Americorps program.

“Ten years ago, Maryland’s school systems hired 2,800 teachers. This year, demand reached 8,000, and is expected to peak two years from now at 12,700. Currently, the state’s teacher education programs are producing about 2,500 graduates a year.”

I’m not sure how you propose to make 2500 teachers do the work of 8000, but I think it’ll take more than 10 additional students/class.

Manda Jo , thanks the for the suggestion! I used to tutor jr high kids when I was a senior. I might give subbing a try for a year, but I don’t know if I need certification- in the TfA program, you work for your certification as you’re teaching, do it’s technically allowed.

Gassendi, when you sign up for this program you get training and you also work towards your teaching certification in whichever state you wind up- it’s not like they’re throwing people in cold. They also have a rather stringent application process. Just as a point of debate, however, I’d rather have a smart, enthusiastic, appropriately-majored college grad teaching my children than an english teacher in a math classroom just because there aren’t enough math teachers. FYI, this does happen, as teachers who aren’t trained in a certain field are teaching it just b/c they have a certification.

The program requires a certain number of college credits in your area of teaching, and tries to match majors (i.e. chem majors teaching chem, etc.) With the whole teacher shortage, and even more qualified teacher shortage, I think the program is a good idea.

Barking Spider, your idiocy is astounding.

A 30-to-1 ratio of students to teachers is insanely high - a better number is in the low 20’s, especially for younger children who need lots more personal attention than older ones. A low teacher-student ratio works better on many different levels: more individual attention, fewer discipline problems (it’s a lot easier to control a class of 20 than a class of 30), and the teacher gets to know his/her students better this way.

And I’m not even going to get into your “liberal teachers’ unions” comment, as I’d take you to the mat on that one.

Besides, a few liberal ideas tossed out might cause you to think. We can’t have that happening, now, can we?

First, tutoring has nothing to do with whether or not you will enjoy teaching. Frankly, the “teaching” bit is far and away the easiest part, and the part you will stress the least about. Classroom management is what will make you want to tear your hair out every day: the hard questions are not “how do I do this?” but “Can I go to the bathroom?” and “why’d you let Johnny go to the bathroom?”

Second, certification for substituting is completely different that Teach for America. Any teaching-related position has it’s own set of hoops to jump through, and they never, ever, ever streamline the process. Here is a real life example of the kind of unbelievable beaurcratic BS you will encounter while teaching:

Senario: It’s January. I have just finnished my student teaching ,and have failed to get a position over the Xmas break. So I go sign up to be a sub. Setting: Employment offic of school district.

Me: Hi! I would like to be placed on the sub rolls, please.

Nice, ineffective lady: Great, we have a terrible shortage of subs. (Pulls out enourmous application packet) Here is the application for the school system, and the application for a substitute’s liscence. For the sub’s licence, you will need to go to the local Police station and pay $5 to get fingerprinted. Then bring the fingerprints and a money order for $49 to pay for the background check and another money order for $20 to pay for the application fee for the state sub’s liscence. (for those keeping track at home, subbing pays $50/day).

Me: Oh, I’ve already done all that when I finished my student teaching at Christmas. It’s being processed.

Lady: Oh! You can’t be a sub, then.

Me: What?

Lady: If you hare having a background check done, you can’t submit for a second background check, and if you had submitted your fingerprints through this office, then you could get a waiver in a few weeks, but since you have submitted them as a new teacher, they don’t get to that pile until late spring.

Me: But they gave us this letter (shows letter) that says we have been recomended for certification, and they said that most school systems understood about processing time and that this letter was as good as certification within the state.

Lady: For a teaching position, that letter is good. But you can’t sub until you’ve actually gotten the physical certificate back from the state, and that will be late spring.

Me: So the system could hire me as a teacher today, but not as a substitute?

Lady: Yes.

Me: My fingerprints and background check stuff is just sitting in a box at my University: they haven’t processesed them yet, let alone sent them to the state. Could I go pick them up and hand-carry them over here, and submit them through this channel instead?

Lady: Sure, and you will probably get your certificate faster becaue they process the substitute background checks faster than the new teacher ones. It should only take 4-6 weeks.

What follows was several hours of running around getting copies of things. Note that the rest of the application packet called for everything from 3 letters of recomendation to a neg. TB test.

Education is full of beauracratic BS like this. If this sort of thing drives you insane, it is something to consider.

$5 to get finger-printed?? We have to pay $36 here, and every teaching position (even subbing for more than one SAU I’m told) requires you to do it for them…I don’t understand why they can’t just have copies of old ones, your finger prints aren’t supposed to change.

My Little Sister In Law (Lsil) did Teach for America for a year.

She went to a sort of boot camp with other TfAs and meet some good friends there. When she got her school assignment they group you with some others so you can have some roommates/friends so you are not totally alone in a strange city.

She did hers in Newark, NJ. The school had plenty of cash from the airport so it wasn’t a struggle for supplies. They didn’t tell the other teachers that she was a TfA for some reason. The princepal knew but not the other teachers.

I remember that she was given three areas to choose from. One was a rural area. The description said that her teacher salary would put her in the upper imcome bracket of the town and that teachers are respected in the community. It was about a 45 min drive from Memphis TN. (somewhere in MS)

She did get burned out after one year. Mostly by the parents who either didn’t care or hated her because she was white. (no white kids in the class). She was actually called a white devil by one parent and received some death threats which were considered par for the course in that school.

She teaches now in Arlington VA but she wants to move to adminstration.

NightRabbit, good for you. Deciding to teach through an alternative route such as TFA or ICTC is very rewarding, on both sides of the teacher’s desk.

Personally, I taught for one year through Alliance for Catholic Education, an AmeriCorps umbrella organization. I taught third graders in an under resourced parochial school in the South.

I hated it. I was terrible, and I didn’t do a good job.

Why? Because I was in the wrong age group. The second thing you need to do is make absolute sure that the subject matter and the age group you’re going to be working with is extremely compatible with your personality type and abilities. Professional teachers have years of education, classroom research, and student teaching under their belts before they have to commit to one group of kids. You’ll have a couple of months. If you don’t feel like you’ll be comfortable, DON’T DO IT.

I loved the kids I worked with. I loved the teachers I worked with. I hated the material I worked with. And unfortunately, that’s the biggest piece of the equation. You can work with other teachers you don’t get along with, the kids will eventually come to love you (and you them), but the material doesn’t change.

Barking Spider, this is not the time or place for your comments. You want to discuss government funding of education and educational volunteer activities? Start a Pit thread or a GD thread. This one has an entirely different purpose alltogether.