The readings and podcast for this coming week really made us sit back and think about Teach for America, and what kind of work it is actually doing. Maddy raises a great point at the end of her post about how misleading the title of Teach for America really is. When you hear the words “Teach for America”, you would assume that there was no way that a single negative thing could come from this program and the work that it does. An individual that is not informed on this program, or our education system will see this title and probably think that it is a great cause, and that it is benefitting our students and our youth, when in reality they could not be more wrong. The readings for this week enable us to take a look at individuals who have been in the program and have had experiences that everyone should know about before they assume that TFA is helping these children.
Where is the biggest problem when it comes to TFA? Is it the assumptions that society makes regarding the program? It is the unsuccessful training that these teachers are getting? Or could it be the fact that the students in these schools lives are being handle with such recklessness? I’m going to go with all of it. It was stated throughout the entire Darling-Hammond article how teachers who were in the program felt as though they were completely unprepared, and they were fully aware that their students were paying the price. To add to this, as Monica stated, graduates often use the program of TFA as a stepping-stone as a way of “gaining experience”, and then heading off on another path that has nothing to do with teaching. So we see here that the investment and passion is already missing from this young group of people. The message we are sending to these students and to the communities in which they live, is that even though these teachers probably won’t ever teach again, they know more than you do, so you are essentially lucky to have them in the picture. Margaret Bradley, principal of P.S. 223 discusses her disappoint with the TFA individuals, “I though that these were really bright students who wanted to make a difference, but I found it to be just the opposite in terms of their commitment.” (Darling-Hammond, 25) Not only was there a lack of preparation, but there for the most part was a disconnect on a personal level from the TFA recruits and teachers with the location in which they were placed. And the training was definitely not helping this situation, as Thomas Popkewitz discussed after studying the program its first year. “In TFA training, distinctions were drawn between the normal child who succeeded in schooling and the child of color-who became the ‘other’: the one who lacked motivational attributes, behavioral characteristics, and self-esteem to succeed.” (Darling-Hammond, 25) And here we have our answer to the way that society views our students; and we want to place the blame on them for not having agency. These kids are being written off before they even get a chance to be something. Darling-Hammond discusses on page 27, that this disconnect between the TFA teachers and students could stem from the fact that because the training program for TFA does not actually set these individuals up for success in the classroom, they often fall back on the ways in which they were taught. This is problematic because there is no acknowledgment that these kids are not only living in a different environment, with different situations, but also that each students learns differently from the person next to them. (27)
Regardless of whether or not the intentions were there, good or bad, TFA has only perpetuated the idea of neoliberalism in society. With the help of this program, the negative stereotypes continue to cycle throughout our country, a privileged, white, elite, individual has all of the answers for a community of people that they do not even know, or would care to get to know. Wendy Kopp refuses to allow TFA to be truly analyzed, which alone should a be a red flag, that even she, the founder of TFA knows that something is not right. (Darling-Hammond, 22) When it comes down to it, our students are what matter, and programs like Teach for America are not only not benefitting these children and students, but causing serious detriment to their education and youth.