Another TFA Alum Has Not-So-Great Things to Say About the Program

During my training, I taught a group of nine well-behaved third-graders who had failed the state reading test and hoped to make it to fourth grade. Working with three other corps members, which created a generous teacher-student ratio, I had ample time for one-on-one instruction.

That classroom training was completely unlike the situation I now faced in Atlanta: teaching math and science to two 20-person groups of rotating, difficult fifth-graders—fifth-graders so difficult that multiple substitute teachers would vow never to teach fifth grade at our school again.

I had few insights or resources to draw on when preteen boys decided recess would be the perfect opportunity to beat each other bloody, or when parents all but accused me of being racist during meetings. Or when a student told me that his habit of doing nothing during class stemmed from his (admittedly sound) logic that “I did the same thing last year and I passed.” The Institute’s training curriculum was far too broad to help me navigate these situations.

School is back in session and a new crop of Teach for America recruits are in classrooms across the country, and some of them will be grossly unprepared for the upcoming school year. In The Atlantic, a TFA alum talks about some of the challenges she faced, and concludes, as we have heard time and again, that the program is highly problematic.

See also Adi’s essay for us about her experience.

Photo: Max Talbot-Minkin



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