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I was turned down by Teach for America. This year is the first that teachers have been eligible to apply. It may have something to do with all those millions of tax dollars our government rationed out to the organization, or it may have something to do with discrimination, or both. Teach for America has staked its entire service on the notion that professional teachers won't teach in the schools where they place recruits. I'm an excellent teacher, so I thought I'd apply.

Photobucket

(Miss Teach for America superhero card.)

Before I even finished my online application, a recruiter from TFA gave me a call. He wanted to know what I had in mind to do after my teaching experience. I said I wanted to teach. I explained that I was a teacher with administration credentials, so I might want to become a principal, but mostly I just wanted to teach under-served children in a struggling school. I explained that I was an excellent teacher and had received awards for my teaching.  He said that was fine, and if I really wanted to teach that was okay, but the "chatter" over the next couple of months, he said, will be all about what I wanted to do after my teaching commitment was up. He then encouraged me to finish my application to qualify for the phone interview. (TFA loves to promote its high number of applicants, so they don't like to let any nibblers get away.)

At that point, I was pretty sure I didn't stand a chance, but I was curious about the process and if I could make it, so I finished the online application. It was fairly standard until I came to the section asking about my affiliation to several different organizations.  I was a member of none. Then there were some curious questions asking me about student loans and if I intended to borrow money to pay for expenses if I was accepted. I said no to that as well.

Some people are accepted at that point. I wasn't. Apparently being affiliated to one or another of those groups assures your acceptance. Somehow magically, at that point, some applicants are foisted straight to the in-person interview, bypassing the online questions and activities and the phone interview. TFA doesn't explain how that decision is made, just that they know. WOW! But not me, I guess being an excellent teacher was not a strong indicator. I was asked to answer more questions and to give my opinions about some strange situations that had nothing to do with teaching ability.

In fact, throughout the entire application and interview process, I wasn't asked one question about my education philosophy, knowledge, or skills. I wasn't asked about my experiences working with kids.  Not one question during the phone interview pertained to my teaching. I thought that odd. I was applying for a teaching position, wasn't I?

The next communication I received from TFA asked for my input about the application and interview process. It was not an anonymous survey, and it must be completed before I would be notified of my status -- optional, of course. Hmmm. The first interviewer had hung up on my repeatedly. Bad connection, he said, after I called him back each time. The online activity had scrolling problems which is a concern when taking a timed test. (I wondered if children ever had that problem when taking standardized tests.) Hmmm. Would I be chastised for telling the truth? Would my lack of participation be looked upon as capricious? Hmmm. The entire process was lovely, I lied. What else would one say?

A few days later I was notified that I had failed the phone interview. I was rejected by form letter. I'm sharing it with you here.

Dear _____,

Thank you very much for your interest in Teach For America and for the time and effort you invested in applying to our program and speaking with an interviewer. I am very sorry to inform you that, after careful consideration of your candidacy, we did not select you to advance to the next stage of our admissions process.

Your initiative in applying to Teach For America demonstrates your commitment to expanding opportunities for children and effecting social change, and we would like to offer all candidates a path to realizing these aims. This said, we know that Teach For America is not a fit for everyone. While acknowledging the limitations of any selection process, we have developed a set of admissions criteria over time that helps us identify those most likely to be successful in our particular program.

We know, however, that you have the potential to make a significant contribution to meeting our country's pressing social needs, and we encourage you to pursue other ways to make a difference. To assist you in your pursuit, we have posted on our website a list of recommended resources. Additionally, if you are interested in being contacted by educational and service-oriented organizations that may wish to recruit Teach For America applicants for similar opportunities, you can complete a short form here.

I am sorry that we will not be able to provide individual feedback on admissions decisions, given that we do not have the resources to handle the volume of potential requests. Although this e-mail may bring disappointment, I hope that your experience with Teach For America thus far has been positive. If you would like to share any anonymous feedback on our admissions process, we welcome your reflections and suggestions here.

I wish you the best in your future endeavors.

Sincerely,

Sean Waldheim
Vice President, Admissions

Here are a few of the fakers I lost out to.

I think if I made a rad effort I could totally groove with these guys. Honey badger the achievement gap, indeed. Snap. Your loss TFA.

Note that the rejection letter makes no reference to teaching either. Here are some of the things I won't be receiving because I was rejected by Teacher for America. Note that none of these things is paid for by Teach for America even though it collects millions. Teach for America hires no teachers.

Snapshot of Corps Member Compensation

    * Salary ranging from $30,000 to $51,000
    * Health insurance
    * Retirement benefits
    * AmeriCorps education award of $10,700
    * Loan forbearance and paid interest for two years
    * $1,000 - $6,000 of no-interest loans or grants for relocation
    * Educator discounts
    * Exclusive scholarships and benefits from grad schools and employers

If you are an educator, I suggest you check out Educator Discounts because you may be eligible for some of them. In other words, you don't have to be a Teach for America recruit to take advantage of many of them.

I know I'm not the only teacher rejected by Teach for America this year. TFA must stop leading with the mantra that certified, experienced teachers will not teach in poor schools. It is simply not true. It is a matter of recruitment and access to jobs. Teachers simply do not have access to TFA jobs because, inexplicably, the government has promised them to untrained, inexperienced corps members who do real harm to children and cost school districts millions.  It's time to stop this foolish, elitist jobs program and give every child a professional teacher.

In the meantime, I wish the new crop of TFAers well. I hope each of you have a better experience than John Bilby, and if you don't, I hope you'll have the courage to tell the world about it because every child deserves a great education.

Originally posted at Great Schools for America.

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Comment Preferences

  •  From what I've seen is the key qualifications (10+ / 0-)

    for TFA are

    1) you want to use it for resume-building purposes for something else (e.g., to distinguish you from umpteen million other applicants to medical school).

    2) you appear to be cheap and disposable labor (which doesn't necessarily conflict with point 1 above).

    I'm not surprised you weren't selected.

    Sadly enough

  •  In the same boat (5+ / 0-)

    That sounds very similar to my experiences as well. Glad (in a way) to see I'm not the only one.

  •  I've Never Seen Our Country So United Behind (11+ / 0-)

    an idea as the one that teachers are the problem we're going to solve.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Tue Mar 13, 2012 at 12:49:11 PM PDT

  •  I know one of those TFA-Speak people. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Tonedevil

    He is/was actually a pretty good kindergarten teacher.

    He was the "flannel or plaid" guy.

    "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White -6.00, -5.18

    by zenbassoon on Tue Mar 13, 2012 at 01:11:53 PM PDT

    •  When I think of all the unemployed (8+ / 0-)

      kindergarten teachers I know who studied so hard to learn how to prepare little children for school and to know someone like plaid guy can just on a whim waltz in to TFA and take that job, I cringe.  Were you plaid guy's principal?  Otherwise, how would you know that he was a pretty good  teacher?

      Not everything that can be counted counts. Not everything that counts can be counted. Albert Einstein

      by annie em on Tue Mar 13, 2012 at 01:25:01 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I was the music teacher at his school for a year. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Tonedevil, elfling, Melanie in IA

        "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White -6.00, -5.18

        by zenbassoon on Tue Mar 13, 2012 at 01:37:18 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Yes but TFA requires similar years of prep (0+ / 0-)

        They still require people to have a 4 year degree just like a starting teacher. They just don't have to have that degree in Primary Education.

        For kindergarten, I would think a degree in developmental psych would be a better degree anyway. Certainly better to discern which ones have learning disabilities so intervention can start early.

        •  A four year degree in (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          wenchacha, chimene, CitizensArrest

          anthropology or engineering or anything else but education is not the same as a teaching degree. At my university, kg was an extra endorsement on top of the regular elementary major. Just because Bill Gates has convinced a lot of people with money and power that an education degree is worthless, doesn't mean it is.  I'd like to give Bill Gates 5000 teachers, who have a four year degree, to code for Microsoft after 5 weeks of summer training by people who are also not coders -- That's the TFA way.

          Not everything that can be counted counts. Not everything that counts can be counted. Albert Einstein

          by annie em on Tue Mar 13, 2012 at 05:43:37 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  not a research base to support the program (4+ / 0-)

    but that does not matter.  It is non union, in fact anti union.  These grads come in and then leave before anyone can know if they would make a good teacher or not, and the promised evaluations (think mind trust in Indianapolis) of TFA never happen or are not published.  Oh well, at least these are graduates of our "best" elite colleges and universities, so they are probably a step above the high school grads or other partial college credit people we have doing long term substitute teaching in schools (In Indiana, most school corps require a college degree, but no teaching experience--contracts prohibit long term substitution, yet many are hired to fill in for a semester or longer).  

    •  The same is true in Florida (3+ / 0-)

      where teacher positions are filled with people who don't even have the five weeks experience that TFAers have. Under Florida law and NCLB they are highly qualified if they pass an hour long test.  Many leave soon after they begin and are replace by long term subs who only are required to have a high school diploma. Florida is a pioneer in reform!

      Not everything that can be counted counts. Not everything that counts can be counted. Albert Einstein

      by annie em on Tue Mar 13, 2012 at 01:50:26 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Retention sucks for even regularly preparely ones (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      houyhnhnm

      In CPS, the retention rate for new teachers hovers just around 50%. Which is not necessarily a bad thing, as most of the ones that won't be able to make it self-select out. That's one point that's missing in the arguments about teacher evaluations. It's that principals frequently don't have to give low ratings because the teacher already realizes s/he isn't cutting it and solves the problem by their own agency.

      •  Wrong reason for 50% departure rate (0+ / 0-)

        They leave due to job stress and lack of support from their administration. They leave due to becoming convinced by what they see that nothing they do can make a difference. They leave when they are blamed for their students failures even when the absentee rate is so high that they never get to teach the same group of kids in the same class/subject more than a few times a year. They leave low performing schools at a far higher rate than high performing ones. When a new teacher gets into a great school with good kids and gets the mentoring and support they need they stay at what is a rewarding job.

  •  The Bilby testimonial (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    semioticjim, Tonedevil

    is really mind blowing in so many ways.

    Thank you for sharing your experience with TFA.

    Honesty pays, but it doesn't seem to pay enough to suit some people. Kin Hubbard

    by Mr Robert on Tue Mar 13, 2012 at 01:33:45 PM PDT

    •  I met John Bilby this past (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Tonedevil, Mr Robert

      summer at the SOS march.  He presented at a workshop there.  He was accompanied by another TFA who had had a similarly bad experience.  They were so naive, and I just wanted to protect them both.

      Not everything that can be counted counts. Not everything that counts can be counted. Albert Einstein

      by annie em on Tue Mar 13, 2012 at 02:23:25 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I want to know more about this part: (6+ / 0-)
    I came to the section asking about my affiliation to several different organizations.  I was a member of none.
    What organizations? I've been a teacher for 36 years and I can't imagine what the f*k organization memberships have to do with anything.

    "The notion that a majority must have its way, whether in matters of opinion or in matters of personal conduct, is as pestilent and anti-democratic a notion as can possibly be conceived" Columbia University president N. M. Butler on the Scopes trial

    by teachme2night on Tue Mar 13, 2012 at 01:34:28 PM PDT

  •  Endo Colonialism (5+ / 0-)

    TFA makes me think of the foreign missionary movement in the nineteenth century.  Like those Victorians who went out to civilize the heathens, many TFAers are idealistic, but naive, with an exaggerated notion of what they have to offer and a complete ignorance of the culture of those they are going to "improve".  And, like the missionaries, they are actually serving the interests of powerful people with an agenda.

    Light is seen through a small hole.

    by houyhnhnm on Tue Mar 13, 2012 at 01:36:59 PM PDT

  •  One question I was left with (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Melanie in IA

    after reading the diary: why did you apply?

    In other words, what short- or long-term advantage did you perceive would accrue to you by changing from your present path to TFA?

    •  I am an unemployed teacher. Most (4+ / 0-)

      people don't realize how difficult it is for teachers with experience to get a job if they have to move.  I do not support TFA, but they have the jobs, and they claim that they only place recruits where professional teachers won't go. I just wanted to see for myself if they would actually place a certified teacher.  In the past they have discriminated against teachers, not even accepting their applications.

      Not everything that can be counted counts. Not everything that counts can be counted. Albert Einstein

      by annie em on Tue Mar 13, 2012 at 02:32:21 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Makes sense. I missed the (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Tonedevil, Melanie in IA

        unemployed part.

        I'm caught in the middle of the TFA controversy, so I appreciate commentary from a variety of perspectives. On the one hand, most of my family members (including in-laws) are educators. Many of them, like my mom, are skeptical of TFA, so I'm well acquainted with the complaints. On the other hand, I'm a professor whose university sends huge numbers of its best students to TFA. Most of my colleagues send them on that path without much critical reflection, so I've tried to push back a bit by urging discussion of the pros and cons, not just for our students but for professional educators and the affected K-12 students as well.

        On thing I'll note is that, when I look for resources that raise critical questions about TFA to share with colleagues, anything that attacks the participants is a total non-starter. These are our favorite students -- the smartest, most worldly, most sensitive, (usually) most liberal, most socially conscious, least greedy, etc. -- and we think the world of them. When the epithets aimed at the organization are used on its participants as well, then there's no chance of winning a sympathetic audience among those with power over the process.

        Good luck with your job search, and keep fighting the good fight.

        •  Recruits are victims, too. And (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          CitizensArrest

          while they may be as you say:

          These are our favorite students -- the smartest, most worldly, most sensitive, (usually) most liberal, most socially conscious, least greedy, etc. -- and we think the world of them.
          But, they aren't teachers. Please don't send your college grads there if they didn't major in education!  I also teach college classes.  I have had the same kind of students: smartest, most worldly, most sensitive, (usually) most liberal, most socially conscious, least greedy -- but they were teachers.

          TFAers cost school districts millions more than my well prepared teachers, and they do real harm to their students.

          Teach  for America: A false promise -- please read and share with your colleagues.  Then stop sending your students to take jobs away from real teachers.

          Not everything that can be counted counts. Not everything that counts can be counted. Albert Einstein

          by annie em on Tue Mar 13, 2012 at 03:35:12 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I did not major in education. (0+ / 0-)

            I have degrees in Finance and Economics. I teach. YES, I TEACH. I AM a teacher. Yes, they are college classes, but your blanket statement

            they aren't teachers
            is offensively arrogant.

            I do not claim a teacher wouldn't be better prepared with a degree in education, but just because they don't have one does NOT mean they can't teach.

            Life is short. Love deeply and forgive swiftly. And be kind. It matters.

            by Melanie in IA on Tue Mar 13, 2012 at 05:39:29 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Teaching at the college is not the (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              CitizensArrest

              same as teaching k-12. The research that isn't paid for by Gates bears out my argument. TFAers do significant harm to their students and cost school districts millions.  

              I stand by my argument.  Freshly graduated college students who have no education training are not teachers. Even TFA doesn't call them teachers.  They are referred to as corps members, which is another widely accepted misconception about TFA.  It is nothing like the Peace Corps.

              Not everything that can be counted counts. Not everything that counts can be counted. Albert Einstein

              by annie em on Tue Mar 13, 2012 at 05:51:30 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

  •  I saw something chilling (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Tonedevil, CitizensArrest

    on tv last year. I really don't remember if it was TFA or not, so I'm not saying it was. But if it wasn't it must have been some similar program.

    They were interviewing people without the usual credentials for teaching positions. Most of them were young people, but one was a retired businessman who wanted to do something to help kids.

    They asked the question "If the child fails to learn, is it always the teacher's fault"?

    All the young people said yes. That was apparently the right answer.

    The older gentleman gave an intelligent, measured answer about the many things that could be factors in a child's difficulties in school. They didn't like his answer. It wasn't what they were looking for.

    I don't remember whether they said if they hired him or not. But the whole thing was extremely disturbing.

    We decided to move the center farther to the right by starting the whole debate from a far-right position to begin with. - Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay

    by denise b on Tue Mar 13, 2012 at 02:09:51 PM PDT

  •  President Obama...Where do you stand? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Tonedevil, CitizensArrest

    TFA are nothing more than scabs!

    If President Obama believes that American education can be improved by putting it in the hands of the least experienced teachers, who happen to be the cheapest labor, this Administration's education policy initiatives are FUBAR.....

    www.dumpduncan.org

    Educational experience based on behaviorism is mind control.

    by semioticjim on Tue Mar 13, 2012 at 02:36:50 PM PDT

    •  This disturbing education (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Brooke In Seattle, Roadbed Guy

      policy is the only thing that Dems and Reps can agree on. We don't have any choice but to fight for kids.  Both parties see that tranche of education dollars and they want it for their buddies in private business.  Never mind that they have no education credentials or expertise.  Never mind that that money has traditionally gone to pay for the salaries of people who had direct connections with kids.  It's the last pile of money left and both parties will steal it from little children.

      Not everything that can be counted counts. Not everything that counts can be counted. Albert Einstein

      by annie em on Tue Mar 13, 2012 at 02:45:28 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yes, as aptly summarized in this quote (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        CitizensArrest

        from Science (the magazine):

        With the appointment of Arne Duncan as the Secretary of Education, the Obama Administration has swallowed whole the prevailing ideology about the salutary influence of markets and choice, originally concocted by libertarians, neoconservatives, and Republicans.
        link (sorry, may be behind a firewall - the citation is Science 28 May 2010: Vol. 328 no. 5982 pp. 1107-1108 )
  •  So insightful... (0+ / 0-)

    Thanks Annie Em!!
    You have shined a light on the insidious motivations of TFA recruiters...

    Educational experience based on behaviorism is mind control.

    by semioticjim on Tue Mar 13, 2012 at 02:42:38 PM PDT

  •  What organizations? (0+ / 0-)
    It was fairly standard until I came to the section asking about my affiliation to several different organizations. [...] Apparently being affiliated to one or another of those groups assures your acceptance.
    Are you at liberty to name the organizations they asked you about?

    "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." --Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife

    by JamesGG on Tue Mar 13, 2012 at 02:44:42 PM PDT

  •  Post secondary education has been one of the most (0+ / 0-)

    profitable corporate welfare programs of the last 30 years. Now they are simply expanding the market.

    But, nobody could've predicted...

    "Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities." - Voltaire

    by Greyhound on Tue Mar 13, 2012 at 07:09:57 PM PDT

    •  Yes, University of Phoenix (0+ / 0-)

      has grown to the the largest private U in only 10 years with a little help from Bill and our very generous student loan/ indentured servitude program.  The money has been spread around to insure the loyalty of many academicians, but you won't find adjunct faculty, who are the bread and butter of most higher learning institutions, living high on the hog -- so to speak.

      Not everything that can be counted counts. Not everything that counts can be counted. Albert Einstein

      by annie em on Tue Mar 13, 2012 at 08:08:47 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks for posting your experiences (0+ / 0-)

    I think TFA is so concerned about your plans after TFA because it is part of their agenda to dismantle and discredit the public schools.  Some of TFA's alumni go on to be principals of charter schools, etc.

    My daughter (who is a certified, experienced teacher and now has a full time job) began the year as a long time sub for a TFA teacher who for unknown reasons couldn't begin teaching at the start of school.  A few times this teacher provided my daughter with TFA materials-- I recall one was a test of what they knew about various colleges.  She finally ignored these and concentrated on teaching the subject.  When she was notified that she'd been hired for her current job, she left the principal with information about the students (grades, etc) and where they were in the curriculum.  The principal seemed surprised that she had done all that.  She was replaced by another sub.  

    I know the school could have hired a qualified teacher because my daughter applied to dozens of jobs in that school system-- as did many other unemployed teachers.

    TFA The worst teachers for the worst schools.

  •  TfA is a cult (0+ / 0-)

    Dept of Ed gave them 50 million last year. not a dime went to improve training conditions for their recruits or to classrooms.

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