Thursday, December 23, 2010

TFA REPORT: Fall 2010

Here is what I have discovered. Each of my 3 new kids is crying (with real tears) to me about the conditions they face. They get little to no support other than to tell them what to do, but not how. In one case, there was not a face-to-face conversation about teaching with an AP until November. In fact that was after I first saw her. As I said in one comment box, they have been dumped nostril high in quicksand and no one is helping them out except us. I don't know what the other field specialists working with TFA kids are saying but this seems to be a wide spread thing.

We have here another example of the stress these kids are put under. The reason for the 2s are because this R. and my other candidates have no time do those things at a higher level. Even with that, The emails I get from them are often addressed at 4:00 AM, yes, 4:00 AM because of all of the non teaching work they are forced to do on top of the real work of planning, assessing, and providing feedback.

In fact because of all the forms they must fill out for TFA and their school, (even this), and the other time consuming anti teaching rituals they are forced to do, not only don't they have the time to accurately assess their 130 students as we would like, they cant even devote the time to good lesson planning, so they work with the worksheets and other cookie cutter LPs provided by TFA or these schools following the I, you, we format or some other such "workshop" model. They run to TFA headquarters in Manhattan to find and make copies of "teacher- proof, formulaic, guided worksheet-lps.

There is little teaching going on. They are caught between a rock and a hard place. They see the value of what we give but are afraid to use it or they will be accused of not following the rules the school has set for them. When I ask if it would help for me to talk to their APs or supervisors, they decline. They are afraid, especially if their immediate supervisor is a TFA trained person. This is different from the several schools where I have had great chats with principals and APs who are open to a myriad of ideas.

My first years talk to me about trying to make their kids responsible for their work and training them to learn skills like taking and organizing notes, but it doesn't fit the LP structure they are given. As a result one receives warnings and "U"s. I have watched her in two classes, and with proper training she, as all three of my TFAs this year can and will be good teachers, but not under the conditions they work in now and using the types of planning and assessing they are being told to use.


MB: I work with Principals and assistant principals, they are not getting any support from the system and are so very young that they really need a senior supervisor to mentor them.Both new teachers and new administrators need to learn how to get along and play well with each other.

RR: As much as I hated the idea of having a field specialist to report to 10 times my first year, our meetings were the only practical mentoring I received. I would have drowned in the quicksand without you, Dave! Hopefully your new TFA group heeds your advice on how to become a true teacher.

MD: Preach!

Mark Naison This is so depressing. We are setting up these bright idealistic people to fail. We have created schools systems filled with fear because of the constant pressure for "assessment and accountability."

JB:I'm not on Facebook, so I did not see it - and thank you for sending it to me. It's amazing and it makes me pissed off all over again that they are bending smart and creative people to their ideology and telling them they are not good teachers (which is absurd, because at the beginning it's all about potential). And they're so overwhelmed and afraid of some asshole administrator (who probably only taught 3 years anyway) taking revenge because they're not teaching according to their TFA-dictated objectives that they suffer through it, when it doesn't have to be that way. The observations that the TFA people give them is all bullshit lingo anyway, it means nothing, gives you no guidance, and it gives them a way to come back on you if the organization gets tired of you.

And the goddamn crap curricular stuff that they give you! My God, it's worse than worthless because you think it's good ("teacher proof!") and then you bring it into the classroom and you start using it and you realize that it's USELESS, and by that point, chaos has ensued and you don't have a backup plan. I just found a hundred copies of some crap reading worksheet from TFA that I had run off in my frantic first weeks while I was cleaning out the apartment; the benefit of hindsight (and experience) is that I was able to look at it and realize WHAT absolute garbage it was.

Although I sorely miss the kids that I taught and I regret leaving them, I think traditional route is a much better option. TFA makes you think that you'll be blacklisted from teaching forever and everywhere if you leave them, but I just got my sub certificate and I'm volunteering with middle schoolers at an after school program, so I'm getting back into the game.

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