A Teach for America teacher asks why she and her colleagues are unwelcome in Cobb

I ran a shorter version of this heartfelt essay on the education page in the AJC, but wanted to share the full piece here. This piece was written by math teacher Emily Desprez, a Teach for America teacher, after Cobb County’s decision not to proceed with plans to hire 50 Teach for America teachers.

By Emily Desprez

It’s 2:10 and the high school release bell just sounded. I arrived at school this morning at 6, but I won’t leave until 5. My students’ futures are at stake and are worthy of a few extra hours of my time. I am a 22-year- old high school math teacher at a Title 1 school in the Atlanta area. Less than five years ago I was a student at Sandy Creek High School in Fayette County.

It was then my passion for equal educational opportunities launched. I sat in an AP Calculus class taught by an inspiring teacher whose students consistently passed the final AP test –thereby automatically earning college credit. I looked around and saw mostly white faces. Conversely, the demographic mix of my non-AP English class reflected the black majority of Sandy Creek. I was puzzled. Why so few non-whites in my AP math and science courses? This question lingered in my head during my remaining time in high school and at Georgia Tech, where as an honors graduate, I earned a degree in business management.

While in college I received numerous scholarships, immersed myself in cultural events, volunteered around Atlanta and started an awareness group that focused on hunger and homelessness. I also studied abroad for a year. Much of my success at college was a direct result of the education I received at Sandy Creek.

As a senior at Tech, I applied for a position with Teach For America. TFA’s goal is to ensure that children, whose life circumstances put them at a disadvantage, are not denied an excellent education. TFA accomplishes this goal by identifying and fast-tracking leaders into teachers who are expected to put the education of children above all else. They reinforced this expectation by driving home a startling fact: only 8% of kids growing up in low-income communities graduate from college by age 24.

Only after filling out an application, writing an essay, participating in phone interviews, teaching a sample lesson, and attending a day-long interview was I accepted into the program. A program in which less than 10% of the applicants are accepted. To top off my joy, I was thrilled to learn that I would be teaching high school math in Atlanta.

Following my acceptance, I attended what TFA euphemistically calls “summer institute,”  but is more like teacher’s boot camp. At “camp” I taught eighth grade math in an Atlanta Public School to middle school students who failed the CRCT. These summer school sessions focused on CRCT math to help the kids pass the CRCT and then move on to high school.

Each day, after teaching these classes, I attended intensive training workshops on topics that ranged from high-rigor lesson planning to classroom management. I learned about the levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy, Lee Canter’s Behavioral Management Cycle, special education practices, and differentiation based on student needs—many of the same topics discussed by my friends who studied education in college.

Although boot camp gave me the tools and knowledge I required as a first-time teacher, nothing could have fully prepared me for the day-to-day challenge of teaching algebra to 180 students of diverse backgrounds.

Still, on that first day of school in August, I entered my classroom knowing that every child has potential, and it was my mission, and as a teacher, my responsibility to ensure they would receive the education necessary to unleash it. I had come full circle from that day years ago in my high school AP Calculus class. I was ready.

During my first semester I built strong relationships with my students, some of whom had never passed a math class in high school without taking it multiple times, or were soon to be the first high school graduate in their family. I teach students who walk to school when they miss the bus, who live in two-bedroom apartments with 10 family members, who hated math for the first 16 years of their lives, or who never believed they could “dominate” (as we say in my classroom) every math problem they encounter  — if they only believed in their potential and trusted that every problem has a solution.

I learn much from my students each day about the impact that growing up in a disadvantaged environment has on their school life. I’m reminded daily that poverty, broken homes, working parents, etc., are added hurdles that they and I, as their teacher, must overcome.

From this I’ve learned that success in the classroom is as much the teacher’s responsibility as it is the student’s. Each day when the 6:45 a.m. bus unloads my first period class of Math I repeaters, I’m reminded of the relationships we have built, of what I’ve learned from them, and what it takes to close the achievement gap between low-income schools and those in more affluent areas.

And so I was puzzled to read in The Atlanta Journal Constitution that the Cobb County Superintendent “averted a fight over Teach for America, withdrawing, at least for now, his proposal to hire 50 teachers from the program.” The article stated that Superintendent Michael Hinojosa wanted to hire TFA teachers to help close a gap in achievement at schools in South Cobb, where test scores have consistently lagged the district average.

Unfortunately, teachers and some board members were critical of the proposal, saying it undermined staff morale. How, I wondered, would hiring Teach for America teachers undermine staff morale?

I teach at a school where veteran teachers fully embrace my optimistic and exuberant personality, and consistently assist me in becoming a better teacher. Few know that I am not a “traditional teacher.”   To them, I am a young college graduate who wanted to jump right into the heart of public education’s largest downfall: not offering equal opportunity to students from difficult circumstances. Many teachers I collaborate with also come from non-traditional backgrounds, such as accountants, journalists, and even a few with law degrees. I’m just another teacher.

I passed the GACE (Georgia Assessments for the Certification of Educators) for high school math in the 98th percentile. I immediately enrolled in an alternative certification program in which I will earn my renewable teaching certification by the end of this year. I attend almost every available staff development workshop because I want to do everything possible to ensure that my 180 students are receiving a rigorous math curriculum delivered with engaging and real-life applications.

Between my math department mentor at my school, my manager of teaching and leadership development at Teach for America, and my alternative certification program adviser, I am constantly receiving and reflecting on feedback from their observations of my teaching, lesson planning, and classroom management. Interestingly, my presence in my high school isn’t decreasing teacher morale.

So, I’m a typical TFA teacher and my co-teachers accept me as one of their own. Why won’t you, Cobb County teachers and board members, hire me? What is more important when it comes to hiring educators: a teaching degree or an individual who believes that the achievement gap must be closed, and is willing to do anything necessary to make that a reality?

If the Cobb County Board of Education put student achievement first, the question of whether or not reducing a few teachers’ level of morale in exchange for 50 Teach for America teachers wouldn’t even be asked. The answer is obvious.

To those opposing teachers in Cobb, I would like to share with you an excerpt from a thank-you note from one of my students: “You are my favorite math teacher ever! You always have patience and try to explain things so clearly. Thank you for having such a positive attitude toward students and trying to get us to do well and get good grades. Thank you for making me end my day in a good mood by always having a smile on your face and being so outgoing and understanding about things. Thanks for always being here for me when I need help, encouraging me to set and reach goals, for all the nice and kind things you have done to help me accomplish things at school. I had never made above a C in math before now. You motivate me to want to achieve my goals so I can be someone in life.”

“So I can be someone in life.” Talk about high morale. If I ever stop taking steps toward ensuring increased levels of student achievement I will stop teaching.

Should not the teachers in Cobb County have the same attitude –for the students? For high morale?

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

199 comments Add your comment

bootney farnsworth

February 27th, 2012
6:20 am

1-as soon as she interjected race and “diversity” she lost me.

2-as to why Cobb (or anybody else) makes the stupid decisions they do on hiring, promoting, and support? good luck with that one. sadly, welcome to educational real world 101. common sense and educational administration do not exist in the same universe.

3-however well meaning, people like me, 50+, really don’t like being lectured to by 20 somethings just out into the work force.

mountain man

February 27th, 2012
6:25 am

So my question to Emily: after your stint with Teach for America in South Cobb, are you going to permanently relocate and continue to teach in South Cobb? Or, as I imagine most Teach For America teachers do, are you going to do your very short stint in a low-SES school, then get a good job in East Cobb where the students are wonderful and they make you look like a great teacher no matter how you teach? In is no wonder they say “you would not be good for morale” – you come in on your white horse as “better than the existing teachers” and give your all for a short period, then vanish and feel good about what you did for those “poor students”. Yet the teachers who slog in the trenches day in and day out get no support and no respect because their student make them look like the teachers are not doing a good job.

You want to do good, Emily, put your soul where your mouth is and PERMANENTLY select a teaching job in a low-SES school system. After you put in twenty years there, THEN you can claim to be a good teacher. I give you odds of ten to one you don’t make it five years.

BC

February 27th, 2012
6:36 am

There are so many teachers with great qualifications AND a teaching degree who are out of work or cannot find work in Georgia. In a better economy I welcome TFA teachers, in a bad economy like this I think highly qualified, smart, hard working teachers with an actual education degree should get priority. JMHO. Does she not understand that there are many others whose passion is teaching and decided to pursue a teaching degree. They spent 4+ years of their lives preparing to be a teacher, only to find out that there is not a demand for their skills. If you are a new grad in GA with a teaching degree you either have to have an “in” with someone or move far away, as in – internationally.

Elizabeth

February 27th, 2012
6:43 am

In 30 years of teaching, I earned threee college degrees ( at Georgia State University, not a diploma mill school). I spent summers and nights after teaching grading papers, preparing lessons, WRITING papers, and studying for my advanced degree courses. It took me 5 years to get my Master’s and 7 to obtain my Specialist degree. I am not complaining because what I learned was invaluable and made me a better teacher. Today I work with “fast track, boot camp” teachers whose lack of knowledge of their subject is appalling. An English teacher who cannot speak or write correct English or teach grammar correctly. A math teacher who never took algebra in school and can’t explain fractions or spell correctly.A social studies teacher who does not understaand why Prince Philip is not King of England if his wife is Queen. A science teacher who cannot explain why hot water freezes faster than cold water.

These so called “teachers” have taken shortcuts that do not benefit students. The public wants “better qualified” teachers. They won’t get them from”teacher boot camps” which have merit only in opening their eyes to the difficulties of classroom management today.Would you go to a doctor who attended a summer “boot camp” and then was considered ready to practice medicine? Or to a lawyer or financial advisor who obtained his education in that fashion?

Teacher quality is declining because of these short cut educators. I once team taught Language Arts with a teacher who had only ever tuaght one novel in her teaching career–” The Lion. The Witch, and the Wardrobe” to her sixth graders. She managed to avoid teaching ” To Kill a Mockingbird” and “Romeo and Juliet” to her ninth graders– literary works that were on the 9th grade end- of- course tests. Add to this the low pay and applalling working conditions, and you have ignorant people in the classroom. Yet these people are touted as better teachers than I because they plan and execute cute, fun activities that the kids can do easily but learn and retain little from. I am considered to be old and out of touch with students today because I demand that they meet standards by using tried and true methods that are not often fun.I don’t read the novel out loud to my studetns– they are forced to read it themselves. That is ” hard work” and most don’t like it. Too bad.

And you wonder why Cobb does not want them? Hurray for Cobb! They finally did something right.

bootney farnsworth

February 27th, 2012
6:46 am

also:

a-12+ hour workdays are not uncommon, even for old folks like me

b-us old farts have often have families, comunity issues, and other jobs (since teaching in Georgia doesn’t pay worth squat) which also
put demands on our time

c- don’t confuse cordiality with support. fastest way to end up professionally dead on arrival. manners don’t always equate to advocacy. in life, most are right behind you – win or tie.

d-considering what just went on with APS, saying one is willing to do “anything” to close the gap in something is gonna sit uneasy with people

e-obviously for Cobb BOE the answer isn’t obvious. common sense and political goals often have nothing to do with each other

f-nearly all of us have those kinds of notes from students, parents, coworkers. admin doesn’t care.

Cobb Teacher

February 27th, 2012
6:47 am

MAUREEN STRIKES…ONCE AGAIN!!! Maureen…do you EVER publish anything OTHER THAN COMPLETE NEGATIVITY towards public school teachers??!! You know quite well why Cobb isn’t hiring any TFA “teachers”…the county is very possibly going to be laying off teachers and we don’t need TFA at this time. You know this yet you purposely and negatively post another detrimental blog article. SHAME ON YOU MAUREEN!! As for Emily…good for you girl…I’m so happy that you are the BEST TEACHERS THOSE STUDENTS HAVE EVER HAD IN THEIR ENTIRE LIVES! Get over yourself.

bootney farnsworth

February 27th, 2012
6:53 am

if I could talk to Emily directly, I’d tell her:

I genuinely do respect the spirit, desire, and willingness to work she seems to bring with her. and I have no desire to dump on that. but
at 22 she doesn’t yet know what she doesn’t know.

please consider that school for you is still very much in session. keep working for your education, take time to listen to others who’ve been at this longer, and be willing to be mentored by someone.

patrick crabtree

February 27th, 2012
6:55 am

Budget, baby, budget. To hire a TFA, the system must sign a contract and pay an additional $1,000.00 over the teacher’s salary, meaning an addiotinal $2000.00 since they have to keep them 2 years. It adds up. We can’r pay regular teachers, why extra for you, plus the additional cost of training?

God Bless the Teacher!

February 27th, 2012
7:00 am

BC hit the nail right on the head! Emily my be a great teacher, but she comes from the cult headed by folks like Bill Gates who think everything is wrong with public education. It’s their job to come in and save the children from discriminating, uncaring, and burnt out teachers.

irisheyes

February 27th, 2012
7:01 am

Once again, she falls back on that old standby, “If you don’t like this (insert reform here), then you don’t want kids to succeed.” That’s a false argument. Teachers don’t fall for the latest cure du jour, because we’ve seen and heard it all, and the cure du jour is quickly replaced by something new.

bootney farnsworth

February 27th, 2012
7:02 am

easy on Emily guys….

it appears (big word there) we’re dealing with a young, idealistic, gen whatever kid who just got hammered by a huge dose of reality 101.

my guess is she was sold a bill of goods about how the world is just sitting there waiting for her with arms wide open for her to change it.

she needs helpful criticisms, not to be crapped on.

teacher&mom

February 27th, 2012
7:02 am

“What is more important when it comes to hiring educators: a teaching degree or an individual who believes that the achievement gap must be closed, and is willing to do anything necessary to make that a reality?”

Answer: Both

bootney farnsworth

February 27th, 2012
7:06 am

@ teacher & mom

slightly different take: a true believer with the ability to actually make a difference. while some can come directly from the corporate world with 20-30 years experience successfully, for most of us we gotta have 1) the papers and 2) the skills which came from getting said papers

bootney farnsworth

February 27th, 2012
7:15 am

hopefully someone will point out to Emily if she’s sincere, there are plenty of places for her to help save the nation.

from private tutoring companies to AmericaCorps (whatever it looks like now) to teaching on impoverished Navajo reservations, the chance to make a different for a young person is high

but not necessarily in one of the most affluent counties in Georgia

teacher&mom

February 27th, 2012
7:18 am

@Emily – If you chose to stay in education past the five year point, and I hope you do, you’ll find education and closing the achievement gap to be much more than good standardized test scores.

Once you realize that, then the real work will begin. It is HARD work, but it is GOOD work. I’m uncertain about how TFA trains their teachers, but if you consistently hear….”this____ will increase test scores”… be wary. NEVER look at your students’ as a potential passing/failing test score.

Never stop being a student. Read, research, and implement strong pedagogy in your classroom. Be wary of the vendors from test prep companies selling you their current version of “snake oil”.

Find a strong teacher in your building and attach yourself to his/her hip. Ask them to observe your classroom. Ask them to look over your tests, worksheets, lesson plans, etc. Be open to different ideas and suggestions.

Stick it out. Don’t be a five year statistic. Thirty years from now, you’ll be tired and ready for a well-deserved retirement. You can look back with pride at all the lives you have touched and the difference you made in helping them achieve their dreams.

bilbo799

February 27th, 2012
7:32 am

I LOVE this person’s attitude. And I’m glad we have smart, motivated people who want to make a difference. BUT BUT BUT, if she thinks closing the achievement gap starts in the classroom, I would urge her to review all of the evidence indicating that PARENTAL direction (usually two parents who have made smart decisions) are the key, not good teachers (although good teachers are very important). I applaud her for wanting to do her part.

William Casey

February 27th, 2012
7:57 am

I don’t know a lot about the “Teach for America” program but the commenters here (even the usually reliable Elizabeth) seem to be missing two important points:

1. Emily graduated from GEORGIA TECH!!! I can guarantee you that she knows math and has the intestinal fortitude to persevere through tough times. That’s a “Blue Chip” credential. GT is not noted for “fun, cute” learning activities. I know because I went there.

2. She has a passion for teaching and isn’t afraid to take on the challenges in South Cobb. Sure, her enthusiasm might wane but that’s a risk with any new teacher. I’m all for utilizing experienced teachers but ONLY if they really want to be in that particular school.

I’m not a fan of “quickie” teacher preparation programs. However, there are exceptions and Emily seems to be one.

jv

February 27th, 2012
7:58 am

If you are really are motivated and passionate, get an education degree, then come back rather than taking the jobs of truly prepared teachers. Your article did nothing to persuade me. I am very glad Cobb Board made the decision they did, even if it is the first one they got right since ruining the school calendar.

Tony

February 27th, 2012
8:02 am

Teach for America is NOT a cure for our schools. We need teachers with high-caliber credentials who are committed to their students. We need to stop playing games with our children’s education. Cobb County made the right decision when they chose to stay away from this program. While this young person may have many good attributes that make her a good teacher, she has presented arguments that are faulty from the outset. The most egregious is the underlying assumption that Cobb County teachers do not share her zeal for teaching. Good luck to her as she finds her path in life.

HS Public Teacher

February 27th, 2012
8:15 am

Over my years of teaching, I have seen many like her with excitement (both TFA and not) to start. And then, reality sets in….

I sincerely hope that she can continue with her attitude. I fear that her eyes will be opened very soon. I pray that her future administrators don’t destroy her zest for teaching.

rascal

February 27th, 2012
8:16 am

These comments from teachers make me sick. Easy to see why teachers fail the students. You act like idiots, only looking to protect your “union-mentality” driven positions. You have to protect all teachers, especially bad ones, against the real world, where earning your keep every day is critical to keeping your job and keeping your employer in business. If each of you had to get results to keep your job, you wouldn’t be whining about some young upstart showing you up in the classroom. You would be improving your skill, looking for more efficient and better ways to teach not only at a higher level, but how to teach more kids in a day so you could earn more money. You worry about your idiotic certifications as though they actually matter. Teaching profession is full of unqualified, tenure-seeking, low IQ individuals with just enough of a heart beat to get through the day alive. Plenty of great teachers, but without competition and true pay for performance approaches, the profession will never be PROFESSIONAL, just another jobs program for well-meaning, underperforming leeches.

world we live in, in cobb

February 27th, 2012
8:21 am

Emily, you asked why Cobb is against hiring 50 teachers from Teach For America – well, the answer is this:
Cobb has already said the county will be losing positions (supposedly attrition through retirement and leaving the county will take care of it) but now the EIP (Early Intervention Program) teachers will not have jobs due to removal of the program through out the county. Why do we need to hire additional people when we have a pool of experienced educators from which to choose?
It’s nothing personal against the TFA teachers. It’s about timing, funding, and the secrecy from the Superintendent. Perhaps if he had chosen the proper channels to secure funding, the public would not be looking on the program with suspicion.

world we live in, in cobb

February 27th, 2012
8:25 am

Let’s see – could it be that we are losing teaching jobs in Cobb next year (including the Early intervention Program EIP) , the budget, the timing of Teach for America and the secrecy in which the superintendent went about looking for funding? Why do we need to hire new/ not yet certified when we will have a pool of experienced teachers from which to choose? It’s not personal .

world we live in, in cobb

February 27th, 2012
8:26 am

sorry for double post – didn’t think the first one went through….

To Emily

February 27th, 2012
8:32 am

Emily, you ask a good question, which is “How, I wondered, would hiring Teach for America teachers undermine staff morale?”

Here is the answer: many teachers with education degrees feel threatened by you. Many teachers with traditional education degrees want everyone to believe that only those with an education degree are the only ones who can teach. If you come with your great attitude and your non-education degree and work hard from 6 to 5 each day, you make them look bad by comparison. In other words, it’s professional jealousy.

My best advice for you is for you to keep on teaching as you usually do. Keep putting in the effort as you are and don’t let others know yet thta you are a TFA. Then work to get your education degree. Save all those notes from parents and teachers and students. Save those notes as evidence. Then after you get your teaching degree, insist on being hired and show them all the evidence and after you get your education degree, let everyone know how you started, as a TFA.

Then, please, i am begging you, come to Atlanta Public Schools where we really need and appreciate good teachers, regardless of what degree you have or what you look like or how old you are.
Don’t let the jealous types get you down. If you were doing a poor job, they would want you to stay s proof that TFAs are doing a bad job. Remember what is most important — the kids. Keep teaching and work to get your education degree so that you can stay and be secure and earn all the great benefits you deserve.

Good Mother

Elizabeth

February 27th, 2012
8:33 am

William Casey:

I am aware that she graduated from Georgia Tech. She is, however, the exception, not the rule. Tech prepares its math students well — but do they prepare them to TEACH math? Knowing math is only part of the equation. The other part is learning how to teach it to ALL students, plus a host of other lessons that I bet Georgia Tech does not deal with or teach. A summer in boot camp does not make her prepared to teach math to students in middle or high school who have not learned their multiplication tables and don’t want to learn them. REAL teachers, like REAL doctors, come from respected schools of higher learning that prepare teachers academically and give them the preparation they need to learn how to teach what they are learning. GSU did that for me. It took years, not months. You can know a subject– listen up, corporate America– and not be able to teach it. I “know” a lot about heart disease because it runs in my family. That does not make me qualified to diagnose or treat it. You need BOTH parts of the equation to be an effective teacher. And I would strongly resent a 22 year old coming in with the attitude that she know as much or more than do about educating kids.I am glad she is motivated and enthusiastic. Will she still be in 5 years? Can she teach the lowest of the low year after year and not get discouraged? Then and only then will she be a REAL teacher.

Rick in Grayson

February 27th, 2012
8:46 am

Emily should find a school system that is willing to take an innovative approach to teaching math in grades 7-12. Use Kahn’s Academy videos and/or develop a similar approach. Kahn’s Academy works (check the comments of those who use it) and it could lead to a better and cheaper method of instructing students. Why have 100 math teachers presenting the same material (some better/some worse)? This would allow for more teachers to concentrate on tutoring those that still don’t understand the material in the videos.

Slade Gilwater

February 27th, 2012
8:47 am

To Emily Desprez……..you sound like a great teacher of young men and women; however, you have a problem and it’s this……”Other teachers view you as a threat because you are an outstanding educator and, even tho they are not unionized, they still have that Union Mentality that view anyone/anything that is a threat to the status quo as dangerous to their livelihood”……i. e., you’re just too darn good for public schools. Find yourself a teaching position in a top notch private school where you will be appreciated for what you bring to your students.

AlreadySheared

February 27th, 2012
8:48 am

@Elizabeth:

” I would strongly resent a 22 year old coming in with the attitude that she know as much or more than do about educating kids.”

Spend a lot of time with humble 22 year olds, do you? Ms. Desprez may not know as much as you, and may not even know what she doesn’t know. But God bless her. SOMEbody’s got to wake up this morning determined to change the world, and mostly it’s 22 year olds who don’t know any better.

I have to say, with respect to teacher education, it’s not clear to me based on the comments on this board whether resentment for the lack thereof stems more from
“how could they do x, y, and z without taking the classes to learn how?”
or
“by gum, if I had to go through these bleeping education classes before I got to teach, why don’t they?!”

carlosgvv

February 27th, 2012
8:51 am

I would guess the vast majority of these Teach for America teachers are white and are clearly far more motivated than the black teachers they would be working with. That would certainly “undermine staff morale”. Never mind what’s best for the kids.

Batgirl

February 27th, 2012
8:58 am

I remember the days when we were so desperate for teachers that my principal interviewed someone on the side of the road and hired him. We’re not in that place anymore. Cobb and many other systems are losing positions, so it would be ridiculous to agree to hire 50 people from outside the system. Also, Emily should understand that many of us have a bad taste in our mouths regarding TFA because so many young people only stick it out for their two years and then move on, using their teaching experience to pad their resumes and grad school applications.

Emily says that she is getting alternative certification, so I hope that she will be in teaching for the long haul. I look forward to hearing from her again in 10-15 years.

bootney farnsworth

February 27th, 2012
9:03 am

pity we won’t be able to see Emily land in say, Rascal’s or GM’s world at 22 and them tell them how to do their alleged jobs.

Mountain Man

February 27th, 2012
9:06 am

“Thirty years from now, you’ll be tired and ready for a well-deserved retirement.”

Thank you for reminding us of one major benefit that teachers DO get that the rest of us dont: the ability to retire at 52. Some of us will have to work 45 years before we get to retire.

bootney farnsworth

February 27th, 2012
9:07 am

@ William

Emily graduated from Tech.
so?

Joe Hamilton did too, and while he was a great college football player,
just because he got a degree from Tech doesn’t mean he can teach.

knowledge of a subject does not mean the ability to teach it.

you, of all people, should know better

bootney farnsworth

February 27th, 2012
9:09 am

@ MM

ability to retire at 52?
damn, wish someone had told me. I’m several years overdue.

Mountain Man

February 27th, 2012
9:10 am

“Also, Emily should understand that many of us have a bad taste in our mouths regarding TFA because so many young people only stick it out for their two years and then move on, using their teaching experience to pad their resumes and grad school applications.”

Amen, Batgirl! Numerous people have told me that this has been their experience with TFA people (I won’t call them teachers until they teach for 10 years). They are like those white people who participate in Hosea Williams’ feed the hungry initiative every Thanksgiving, then forget about the hungry the other 364 days a year.

To Batgirl

February 27th, 2012
9:12 am

Batgirl, You say “Also, Emily should understand that many of us have a bad taste in our mouths regarding TFA because so many young people only stick it out for their two years and then move on, using their teaching experience to pad their resumes and grad school applications.”

First of all, no one, no one outside education looks for someone with teaching experience. I know. I am a business woman who hires people. Education degrees are regarded by those of us in business as about as worthwhile as degrees in basket weaving.
If you don’t believe me, go see yourself at Monster.com or Dice.com. Every job description has a “required” section and a “highly desired” section. None of them ever list teaching as required or highly desired. Everyone understands and appreciates what a deree from Georgia Tech means. A degree from Georgia Tech in information techology, math, business and especially engineering is highly prized. Just a decade ago, a graduate of GA tech in any of those majors earend a student fresh out of college a signing bonus equivalet to TENs of thousands of dollars. For education majors at ANY institution, we wouldn’t even consider interviewing anyone withan education degree.

Regarding the two years or “stick it out” mantra. I am a parent and would rather have a fresh faced, enthusiastic teacher rather than a burned out old bitter Betty teaching my kid.

Batgirl, I think you rae a teacher who is trying to protect her turf becaue your comment belittling Emily are just sour grapes and have no merit.
Good Mother

bootney farnsworth

February 27th, 2012
9:14 am

for those of you cheerleading Emily’s attitude:
which one

the whiny, self indulgent one
the nobody can teach but me
or
I’m willing to work hard – not fully knowing what the job entails

bootney farnsworth

February 27th, 2012
9:15 am

no one outside education looks for someone with teaching experience…

don’t know if I should laugh or cry at that one.

To Bootney from GM

February 27th, 2012
9:16 am

Bootney makes a sarcastic remark and says “pity we won’t be able to see Emily land in say, Rascal’s or GM’s world at 22 and them tell them how to do their alleged jobs.”

I welcome criticism and feedback. I’m a mature adult, which means I know there is always something I could do better and I welcome all the Emily’s of the world. I also hire them.

Good Mother

bootney farnsworth

February 27th, 2012
9:18 am

@ GM

on behalf of all the professional educatators here, I wish to apologise.
we obvoiusly failed you on so many, many levels.

grammer, logic, spelling, critical thinking..
based on the content of your posts you have every right to be mad at us.

bootney farnsworth

February 27th, 2012
9:19 am

I’ve got the perfect solution
Good Mother can hire Emily, and pay her six figures a year
problems solved.

To Bootney from GM

February 27th, 2012
9:21 am

You write “no one outside education looks for someone with teaching experience…don’t know if I should laugh or cry at that one.”

It doesn’t matter whether you want to laugh or cry because those of us who do the hiring won’t hear you do either. You have to face it, education degrees outside of the education industry is not worth the resume it is listed on. If you want to be in education, learn to love it because that education degree won’t get you a job outside of education.

…but a great attitude, a willingness to have someone YOUNGER than you as your boss two levels up and a willingness to understand that you will never know it all…might get you an interview.

Good Mother

To Bootney from GM

February 27th, 2012
9:24 am

You sarcastically write again “I’ve got the perfect solution
Good Mother can hire Emily, and pay her six figures a year
problems solved.”

I do hire people who make six figures. They are not uncommon in my field and a GA tech math degree would have me looking at her very closely. You betcha…but for a guy or gal who calls him or herself “Bootney” and has an education degree and a sullen demeanor, nah…you better learn to love education, Bootney, because there is no place for you in business.

Good Mother

Parent's corner

February 27th, 2012
9:25 am

Here is the difference between parents and teachers on this blog: Parents wish there were more teachers like Emily. Teachers wish there were less

teacher&mom

February 27th, 2012
9:31 am

Choice Theory

February 27th, 2012
9:32 am

I teach with Emily and I desperately wish that there were MORE teachers like her!

Mountain Man

February 27th, 2012
9:33 am

So I guess Good Mother would like to see an endless parade of two-year wonders such as Emily, without having any experienced “burnt-out” teachers. A good question is: how good are these TFA teachers anyway in the EOCT or CRCT that teachers (real teachers) are evaluated on. Emily may have one student that raves over her, but how good was she at teaching that student that missed 30 days of the school year? Did HER class make AYP in the testing cernter?

Mountain Man

February 27th, 2012
9:35 am

Also, Are TFA teachers given the same class sizes and same restrictions and same (lack of) support as real teachers?

Maureen Downey

February 27th, 2012
9:39 am

@Mountain, Georgia has not done any studies, but North Carolina did. I wrote about it in 2010, but here is part of my story:

A new superhero has appeared in education folklore and he’s cast a powerful shadow on policy discussions about improving teacher quality: The NASA scientist eager to doff his lab coat and become a high school physics teacher, if only there weren’t so many obstacles in his way.

So revered is this mythology that many states, including Georgia, have made it much easier for people to enter teaching through what are known as alternative or lateral paths that ease the transition and the requirements.

There’s only one problem. There aren’t that many NASA scientists anxious to move into classrooms.That’s one of the findings of a new University of North Carolina study on teacher effectiveness measured through student performance on end-of-grade and end-of-course tests.

Many people assumed that midcareer job changers would prove the salvation of public education by bringing their content expertise and successful work experience with them.

It turns out that many have neither expertise nor great success.

“When we looked at these alternative or lateral entry teachers, many of them were quite young and were simply frustrated in getting a job in their chosen profession,” said Gary Henry, director of the UNC Carolina Institute for Public Policy. “The folks switching from high-performing private-sector jobs are a very small minority.

“More typical of these lateral entries are fashion majors who realize they are not going to be designing high fashions,” Henry said. “They shifted over to teaching as a reasonable second or third choice.”

According to the study, these lateral/alternative-entry teachers, who constitute 15 percent of the work force, perform worse in high schools, where they are highly concentrated.

The study found that the other least-effective teachers were first-years and teachers hired from out of state, who constitute nearly a fourth of the North Carolina teacher work force. The out-of-state teachers perform worse than UNC undergraduate-prepared teachers in five of 11 comparisons.

Explaining the poor performance of out-of-state teachers, Henry said states such as Georgia and North Carolina serve a farm-team function.

“Generally, we are getting folks who could not get jobs in the states that they left because of a lack of experience. When they get the experience, they often return to Pennsylvania or New York,” he said.

The study found the most effective North Carolina teachers were from Teach for America, which handpicks elite college graduates, puts them through boot-camp-styled training and places them in the classroom with ongoing support. Middle school math students taught by Teach for America teachers gained the equivalent of about 90 extra days of learning in a year.

Teach for America sends experienced teachers into the classroom several times a year to observe new recruits and engage them later in a feedback session that begins with, “What did you think your weaknesses were today?” said Henry. And the program holds weekend staff development sessions focused on effective practices for its teachers.

But could it be that Teach for America’s real secret is starting with the smartest college graduates? Henry said he doesn’t know, but hopes to explore that question in later research, some of it perhaps funded by North Carolina’s recent Race to the Top grant.