Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Becoming a Teach for America 2014 Corp Member

Before last December, my knowledge of Teach for America consisted of the following: a non-profit organization that trained college students for five weeks and then threw them into the neediest urban schools. (Not the most positive of viewpoints, I know.) As a student of a traditional teacher preparation program, I was immediately put off by the thought of placing "teachers" with just five weeks of training into the most challenging classrooms. What could they possibly do in that short time that could ensure that these first year students don't crash and burn? Also, I didn't believe that I qualified for TFA as I was already on track to becoming a teacher. I didn't give the organization much thought until I received a random email from a TFA recruiter asking to speak with me about an employment opportunity.

I probably would have ignored the email as spam if not for three things:
1) It was December and I was graduating in three weeks.
2) I hadn't started the job search, didn't know where to even begin and was seriously freaking ou.
3) I LinkedIn stalked the recruiter and he seemed nice (and legit).

And so I scheduled the phone interview. (Personal tidbit: Phone interviews give me hives. I'm not sure why they bother me so much, but I'd take on an in-person interview any day of the week.)

The (Dreaded) Phone Interview:

During the interview, the recruiter gave me some information about TFA and their mission. He painted a picture of the startlingly educational inequality in our country. 50% of American students live in this poverty and only 16% of them graduate high school.

TFA's Mission: 

Teach For America’s mission is to build the movement to eliminate educational inequity by developing such leaders.
After the conversation, I was still unsure about joining TFA. TFA doesn't have the best repution amongst educators who critique their methods of placing recent college grads in schools for two years. " They" accuse TFA of adding to the problem of high teacher turn over rates and the instability, due to constant change, of NYC's education system, amongst other things.

However, at the core I agree with TFA vision of ensuring that all children in America, despite socioeconomic background, receive a quality education.

With the job market the way that it is, I figured that having an entire organization working towards getting me hired couldn't be such a bad thing. Add the other benefits of being a TFA corp member, such as additional support and mentoring, grants for grad school, and more training to supplement what I've already received from Pace, I decided to join. 

The Application Process:

The TFA application is intensive. There's a two hour online application requiring your basic information, course list, transcripts, recommendations, and written responses.There's a phone interview and then a full day final interview (which I skipped straight to). The final interview is 9-5, with the morning dedicated to sample lesson plans and information. For the afternoon, everyone scheduled a 40 minute 1:1 interview. I went first, so I could get it over with. It was also intense and very in-depth. I must have done fine, since I was given an offer.


TFA's biggest concern is the kids, so when assigning corp members subjects and placements, they consider the schools' needs before members' preferences. As I was applying, I knew that despite TFA's stance and due religious and familial obligations, I wouldn't accept an offer that didn't place me in New York City, teaching English 7-12. I was sure that such inflexibility would ruin my chances of being accepted. Imagine my surprise when I'm not only accepting into the NYC corps, but also assigned to English 7-12, General Education K-6, and Special Education K-9.

Wait. General Education K-6? Special Education K-9? Before I could even think about accepting the offer, I had to verify how likely I would be placed in an elementary school or a different content areas. I wasn't willing to work towards a different degree and license. Phone conversations with members of the TFA New York team alleviated those concerns as I was assured that the organization would try their utmost to find an English placement. I could also go to grad school for whatever I wanted (Iona's dual Literacy/Special Education program, here I come!). Apparently, my initial certification was a key component of my application because specific content assignments are supposedly rare. Guess it seemed glaringly obvious to TFA that I am only capable of teaching English.

And so I clicked JOIN on March 23rd, 2014. Since then, I've been hard at work learning about the TFA hiring process (they kind of take over), creating a new TFA-specific resume (as if creating the first one wasn't hard enough), and completing a hiring survey.

The next step is going on intereviews and waiting for offers. Wish me luck!

Until next time,

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