Teach For America: Alum Perspective & App. Deadline

Dear Wes Seniors,

I’m taking a break from grading science projects to give you a heads up that the second application deadline for Teach For America is coming up this Wednesday (October 27th). I’m teaching through TFA in Denver, Colorado. It’s hard work. It’s good work. It’s different every week. It’s important because educational inequality sucks. It’s important because Brian and Jasmine and Luz deserve to be heard, and more people will hear them if they can read and write.

I also appreciate this opportunity to strengthen my own instrument—Teaching, and TFA in particular, is the most legit leadership training I can imagine.  Despite the fact that being a new teacher (maybe regardless of training) is kind of like bench-pressing an angry cop while hang-gliding through a herd of stampeding elephants looking for a small donut and calculating the ten-thousandth digit of pi as you work fiercely together with others to build a playing card house to the moon… despite this fact, I can already see my capacity for making things happen deepen by the month.

If you’re considering applying and want to chat or have any questions, feel free to call me.  If you’re interested but unsure about Teach For America as an organization, I’d love to talk. No approach to tackling social issues is perfect, but I’ve developed a solid respect for this organization and am as down as ever to work through critical questions or concerns.

As for applying, I was thrilled to have applied in October because the final decision gets made in early January, which is nice. If this work catches your interest, go for it. Also check out the various city teaching fellowships around the country (Denver Teaching Fellows, New York Teaching Fellows, etc). And enjoy your year. (I think you’re lovely).

Strength,

Noa Wotton ‘10

(510) 710-1151

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6 thoughts on “Teach For America: Alum Perspective & App. Deadline

  1. Dan

    Noa, as one of my favorite ’10ers, I’m sure you are in some ways incongruent with the many, many critiques of TFA. I still find this post to be tremendously disappointing and am surprised you don’t know better. You make no mention of one of your fellow ’10ers, who, though as creative, spunky and dedicated as you, was FORCED OUT of TFA after arduous months of deception, lack of institutional support and being unfairly blamed for student performance.
    Here is our own Tenured Radical’s take on TFA, please read the rest of the commentary, titled “Is Teach for America a Program for the Rich or for the Poor?” here: http://tenured-radical.blogspot.com/2010/07/is-teach-for-america-program-for-poor.html

    “It is a neo-liberal romance about the ways in which volunteerism by elites can replace a political and fiscal commitment to lifting Americans out of poverty by supporting, and investing in, the schools that poor people attend. Worse, TFA is a spiritual extension of those internship programs that these eager young things with BA’s larded their records with to get into elite colleges and universities in the first place…As someone who is a career teacher, I am offended by the notion that anyone can step into a classroom and teach effectively, even though they are inexperienced and virtually untrained, because they are oh-so-smart and have successfully gotten into Harvard or Wesleyan.”

    Don’t do it!

    1. Ween

      Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing. I feel like this gets forced down the throats of students here and I’ve always wanted to speak up about how it’s just an elite circle jerk like many, many other programs that serve to pad the resumés of self-aggrandizing bastards.

      1. Noa

        You could find evidence to support that description.

        I could find evidence to prove that one of my students is a bully who doesn’t care about himself, his peers, or learning. But that’s not how I choose to approach him.

        Experience has shown me that it’s powerful to recognize and affirm the positive aspects of a person, group or organization (even if those aspects take digging to find), while maintaining a critical perspective toward their problems. It’s satisfying to blast something to pieces with a smart critique and pretend to walk away from it, but we miss all sorts of opportunities for change by stopping there.

        I was turned off by a gut feeling that I got from Teach For America’s branding and recruitment campaign pretty similar to what you’re expressing. I chewed on it for a while and ended up responding in a way that feels constructive to me.

        You’ve taken something apart. Okay. What are you doing with the pieces?

        1. Ween

          Thank you for the timely and thought-provoking response (along with your initial spiel). I’m completely with you on your focus on the net benefit of Teach for America (despite the inherent shortcomings, probably just symptomatic of lager societal ills and not a direct result of any action on TFA’s part) as a means to accomplishing an end result that is doubtlessly positive. It’s good to hear someone vocal about the positives of the organization while recognizing that which could use reëvaluation and it’s good to know that Wesleyan (and TFA and the world, really) is full of active, compassion actors capable of critical self-reflection.

          Thanks for offering an enlightening perspective to me and hopefully others. Also, a Churchill quote comes to mind: “When I am abroad, I always make it a rule never to criticize or attack the government of my own country. I make up for lost time when I come home.”

          BTW, no disrespect intended by my original post – I was just going for a concise, douchy blog comment.

    2. Noa

      Thanks for bringing this out into the open. It deserves more than a quick reply. I’ll try to respond on Thursday or Friday. In the meantime — who are you talking about? Email me… And which Dan is this?

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