Sunday, April 10, 2011

A TFAer Who Hasn't Jumped Ship

"When a student or former student brings in their younger sibling, a toddler or 5th grader, they believe me when I talk about having them in my class someday."
- Anna Martin, A love-hate relationship with Teach for America - Part 1: The 2-Year Commitment

I'm fascinated by the ruminations of Teach for America alums who remain in the classroom (not just "education" as TFA likes to brag). My co-blogger M.A.B. is one of them.

Valerie Strauss featured an article by 7-year TFAer Anna Martin who has remained in her original placement school for the entire time, apparently one of the few TFAers to do so. As someone who spent 27 years on one school, I can appreciate the points Anna made. Teachers being rooted in the community is a no-no for the ed deformers as is the very concept of community-based schools. How would the Eva Moskowitz's of this world make any headway of there were effectively functioning community based schools?
Being the rare bird who has stayed with my placement for seven years gives me a unique, if slightly tortured perspective.
I didn’t migrate when the administrative leadership at the school changed, not once, but four times, as administrators are wont to do in the kind of low-income, high-need districts where TFA places their young teachers.
I haven’t flown the coop as all four other corps members from my year placed at my school finally did – or the 10 other corps members from later years who have come and gone during my time here. Many have stayed four or five years, itself a small miracle in terms of TFA’s teacher lifespan at placement schools. Some were forced out by weird district forces that are symptomatic of the need for change.
But why, I frequently ask myself when thinking rationally about career trajectories and multi-hour commutes, can’t I bring myself to leave?
I think the answer lies in the one issue that almost kept me from accepting TFA’s offer in the first place: my uneasiness with only committing two years to a community.
It seemed presumptuous to assume that I could come in, transform kids’ lives, and leave again two years later. I was skeptical then — and at this point I don’t think it can be done. I don’t believe two years is enough, which is why seven years later, I think my school community still needs me and other teacher leaders committed to staying and making change where change is needed most.
Even though TFAers are encouraged to stay in education, though not the classroom, as policy-makers, Anna also points out that even those who stay at the teaching level do a lot of school-to-school hopping, not conducive to setting down community-based roots.
 Interestingly, at the summit’s opening caucus, Wendy announced that over 3,000 of the 10,800 people in attendance were current corps members. Don’t try to tell me they were all just there for the free drink tickets. Nope. As the hiring booths and flyers advertising for alum to come teach at new schools attested, I believe the majority were looking for their next job prospect after finishing their initial two-year commitment.
If Anna stays through more than one generation she may have the pleasure of teaching her students' children (how many did I see have babies at 14?) Or their grandkids. Or ---

Read the entire series.
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Check out Norms Notes for a variety of articles of interest: And make sure to check out the side panel on right for news bits.

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