Tuesday, June 28, 2011

What's a guy to think?

I haven't been here in a while. I've been teaching a summer school course to traditional Grad School Ed newbies who aren't TFAs. I also just finished working with my 10 "graduating" 2011 cohort TFA's as well as my returning 3 from the 2012 cohort. I've been helping to prepare the SOS MARCH AND CALL TO ACTION CONFERENCE AND RALLY (http://www.saveourschoolsmarch.org/) and reading a lot of blogs, articles, and comments as they float past my internet accounts.

So what's new? Nothing positive. That's what irks me. There are very few positive statements out there. Everyone is shouting at everyone else. No one seems to listen. Even worse, no one seems to want to. Here I am teaching my future teachers to listen to and respect the points of view of others, and here are all of us "educators" doing the opposite. The problem is that many of those I respect have given in to the reasonableness of being unreasonable.

Name calling. Moving further from a reasonable solution. Becoming more entrenched in a position. Giving a Union or Administration "title" to points of view then refusing to listen to them because of the author. These are the saddening trends I see.

Truthfully, it is disheartening. As I attempt to figure out how to approach one of the workshops I am to plan with others about TFA and Teacher Training, I find myself between a rock and a hard place. As I have said before, at first I was happy that there would be an influx of our best and brightest into teaching. We hadn't had that kind of response from high achieving students in decades. Before anyone overreacts, history tells us that not every reformer became a teacher in the 60's and very early 70's for teaching's sake alone. Many men came to escape the draft. Women came because other doors were closed to them. Alas, there is no longer a draft and women now can venture into so many other formerly closed professions. Thus there was a decline in the percentage of top students who became teachers. One only has to look at college records to see.

Anyway, back to the issue. Then TFA became a behemoth and with such stature became a self promoting monster that drank its own Kool-Aid.. No need to get into all of that. You've read it all. What does that have to do with the 19 TFA's I have worked with directly. I see them as kids; students. I treat hem with all the respect I would any student. It bothers me that they are lumped in to the BIG TFA TENT and cursed at without being known as human beings often by the same people who would scorn those who curse at the kids I taught in High School either because they were teenagers or minorities or both.

What I found with, a few exceptions, were kids thrust into a situation they were not prepared to face. TFA gave them little help but did one thing. It made them dependent on TFA. Come to our centers. Come use our material (As bad as a lot of it is, there are some good things too.) Come hang out with supervisors as young as you. But they spend a minimum of 6 hours in schools every day that most teachers try to find their way out of. Most work for ineffective, at best, school leaders and with disheartened worn down colleagues who often resent their naive and youthful energy. Have we forgotten when we were that energetic and how some of our older colleagues made us feel? Have we grown so callous that we throw stones at those who are more like we were than we care to think? Why?

I can't get mad at kids who I've seen cry. (Oh and there are some who call them crybabies.) Big shots. They've forgotten what it's like to be naive and thrust into the kinds of situations they're in. Those of us who came from poor/working class urban families had it easier to adjust. Of course. We had no culture shock. But if you are suburban? Come on now!

Back in 1974 my fiancee and I worked in a summer fresh air fund camp near NYC. We were recruited by a colleague from the Bronx high school where I worked. She was a suburban college grad. These were tough kids that she was totally unprepared for despite my advice before we arrived. She cried. She adjusted. She became successful there and in her future role as a clinical psychologist. So when I see these well-meaning kids cry I have empathy for them. Sadly the same empathy we want them to have as teachers for their students has disappeared for them as individuals because of the distain we hold for the organization that recruited them.

Not for nothing, but TFA recruits in a not so unfamiliar way. Join the Army- Be All You Can be? Join the Marines- Looking For A Few Good Men? Join the Navy- It's Not Just a Job, It's An Adventure? Join the Air Force- Aim High?

"For approximately a century, the United States military has utilized slogans to attract recruits. O’Guinn, Allen and Semenik (200, p.380) define a slogan as “a short phrase...used to help establish an image, identity, or position for...an organization...to increase memorability.” As is the case with several slogans employed by the United States military, a good slogan can become an integral part of a brand’s image and personality. Act as a shorthand identification for the brand. Provide information on important brand benefits. Provide continuity across different media and between advertising campaigns. Bring about thematic integrated marketing communications. (O’Guinn et al., p. 380). Given the mixed reception that various military recruitment slogans have received over the years, an examination of the appeals utilized in the slogans may be instructive. A number of models have been developed to explain motivation. These models include Expectancy Theory, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, Aldefer’s ERG Theory, and McClellands’s Acquired Needs Theory."

Then our recruits are thrust into a war zone. Not exactly what many bargained for. Many were misled naive teenagers or young 20 somethings. Often they join up to climb a non-military career ladder. TFA is nothing more than an unofficial branch of the armed forces, except their recruits are unarmed when they go to war trying to defeat the enemies of education: poverty, poor training, poor leadership, and a host of other saboteurs. Do we try to reform the armed services by chastising our troops? Unfortunately we did during Vietnam. We learned our lesson from that regarding this generation's troops involved in 2 unpopular wars.

We must get TFA to change. We must get TFA to work with traditional teacher training institutions. We must get them to stop vilifying veteran teachers and actually recruit them to train their recruits. We must get TFA to help us recruit top talent to stay in teaching; to become "lifers". We must get TFA to listen. But we have to work with our TFA recruits to make them better professionals. We must influence them to stay, and become lifers. But will TFA listen if we don't? Will we listen if they don't? If neither side listens, then what? What if everybody continues to vilify everyone else instead of working together to come to solutions?

Then we lose more potentially good teachers from every source we recruit them from, traditional, or TFA.

Sadly, I ponder.


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