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❶Now in her dream job in the admissions office for a top university, Michelle Strausman realized that a career in education was the perfect fit after joining Teach For America. I made a mistake in listing my regional preferences.

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I was accepted to the program in March, and began teaching in August. Though I risked complete failure, and struggled bravely through my first year, I eventually made it through my commitment.

In doing so, I helped a lot of kids to learn and to enjoy math. No other path I could have chosen would have exposed me to the range of emotions I experienced in TFA. One of my best moments was during my second year of teaching. The school at which I taught had freshmen but only seniors. And of those seniors, twenty-five of them had not yet passed the standardized test that determined if they would graduate.

I volunteered to teach them in an extra class. When the test results returned, twenty-three of the twenty-five passed. As they received their diplomas, aside from being proud of them, I was proud of myself for putting forth the extra effort for those kids.

The low point of my experience also occurred during my second year. Returning from Thanksgiving break, I learned that one of my top students, a sixteen-year-old girl named Nohemi, had been killed by her jealous ex-boyfriend. I found myself trying to counsel her classmates at a time that I needed my own counseling. By joining TFA you will emerge as a better person, prepared to face whatever challenges lie in your future. Any time I have applied for a job, I have been able to look the interviewer in the eye and say that I am not intimidated by any challenge.

I lived with a deadline that was marked by the end of the period bell. Problem solving and ability to improvise are skills that I developed by necessity.

After the two years, I taught for two more years, winning teacher of the year at my school, and publishing a book about my experiences. I never went to law school, though many of my TFA friends did. The race thing, in fact, turned out to be an inaccurate analogy. I invite current seniors to come to the evening informational sessions this week to learn more about TFA and the application deadline.

They say that my writings and the writings of others have made them realize that TFA might have its flaws. But, they wonder, do those flaws outweigh the benefits of the program?

When I joined TFA twenty years ago, I did it because I believed that poor kids deserved to have someone like me helping battle education inequity in this country. At the time, there were massive teacher shortages in high need areas. The corps had members and the corps had members, with a third of us going to Houston. I was one of those Houston corps members, the first group to ever go to Houston.

It was unrealistic to believe otherwise. But we also knew that the jobs we were taking were jobs that nobody else wanted. If not for us, our students, most likely, would be taught by a different substitute each day. Even if we were bad permanent teachers, we WERE permanent teachers and for kids who had little in life they can call permanent, it was something. And we got out butts kicked. As tough as this was, we partly expected it. That was what we signed up for. We were like those front line Civil War soldiers — the ones with the bayonets whose job it was to weaken the enemy front line ever so slightly at the expense of our own health and well-being.

Many of us quit. I think that a third of the charter corps did. Those of us who made it through the first year had pretty good second years. Most of the people I knew left after their second year. They went to law school or other graduate programs. Even if they had a bad first year and a much better second year, they could feel they did their part in the fight to help kids.

If many of those kids really were going to have rotating subs, we could be sure that we were doing less damage than good. Twenty years ago they filled a need. Our five or six hundred teachers were pretty insignificant in the scheme of things. Over the next twenty years, TFA did a lot of growing, but not a lot of evolving. They replicated their institutes and increased their regions.

The corps is nearly 6,, twelve times as big as the cohorts from the early 90s. Unfortunately, the landscape in education has changed a lot in the past twenty years. Instead of facing teacher shortages, we have teacher surpluses. There are regions where experienced teachers are being laid off to make room for incoming TFA corps members because the district has signed a contract with TFA, promising to hire their new people.

In situations like this, it is hard to say with confidence that these under trained new teachers are really doing less harm than good. As TFA tried to grow and gain private and federal money, they had to develop a public relations machine. They found ways to spotlight their few successes. There were some dynamo teachers — there were bound to be. And then some of those teachers advanced to leadership roles. Some got appointed to big education jobs, like Michelle Rhee as D. Some of the successful ones, it is documented, mysteriously lose their toughest to educate kids.

TFA ignored this as they needed success stories to grow. Even through most of this, up until about three years ago, I still supported TFA and encouraged people to apply to it. Though the change happened so gradually, I hardly noticed it, TFA is now completely different than it was when I joined. I still believe in the original mission of TFA as much as anyone possibly can. The problem is, in my opinion, that TFA has become one of the biggest obstacles in achieving that mission.

TFA has highlighted their few successes so much that many politicians actually believe that first year TFA teachers are effective. Some TFA alums have become leaders of school systems in various cities and states. I already mentioned ex-chancellor Michelle Rhee who now runs StudentsFirst. Which sounds great except these leaders are some of the most destructive forces in public education. Rather than be honest about both their successes and their failures, they deny any failures, and charge forward with an agenda that has not worked and will never work.

TFA and the destructive TFA spawned leaders suffer a type of arrogance and overconfidence where they completely ignore any evidence that their beliefs are flawed. It might be hard for someone who is not a teacher yet to believe that this is not a cop out by lazy teachers.

The fact is that even the companies that do the measurements say that these calculations are very inaccurate. Over a third of the time, they misidentify effective teachers as ineffective and vice versa, in certain models.

If this continues, there will soon be, again, a large shortage of teachers as nobody in their right mind would enter this profession for the long haul knowing they can be fired because of an inaccurate evaluation process. And then, of course, TFA can grow more since they will be needed to fill those shortages that the leaders they supported caused. Maybe they can make it a four year program. I know that this was not the idea of TFA, but I do think that when people teach for two years and then leave, it contributes to the instability of the schools that need the most stability.

But if you enter TFA now, I think you are contributing more to the problem, unfortunately, than to the solution. First, you should refuse to be placed in a region that is currently suffering teacher layoffs. Finally, I want to teach. I am motivated to challenge my students and be challenged by them. Teach for America seems to be a perfect place to find this challenge and I can offer my willingness to try my best to meet it.

This process has been a tangled web of tracks, leading me in many different directions and sometimes in circles. Still, being able to define my academic goals and figure out the steps needed to get there has been a major accomplishment.

Four years ago, I started applying to colleges. I had a vague idea of what I wanted to study, but my primary reason for going to college was that I was supposed to. As a result of the socioeconomic culture I was raised in, it was simply a given that I would go to college. At the time, I had a passion for anthropology A year later, when I entered Hampshire College, I was just as scattered.

This was fortunate because Hampshire's system is designed for people to explore what they want to do. The first step every Hampshire student must complete is called Division I. This includes two projects in different areas of study as well as two classes each in two other areas of study.

Through such diverse projects and classes such as "The Causes and Effects of Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia" a genetic disorder that can cause infants to have ambiguous genitalia , "How has the U. I was able to connect all of my academic interests under the umbrella of trying to better understand constructions of power and privilege in the United States. I was even able to connect my personal life to my academics. For the first time, I confronted my own white privilege in an environment where people really challenged each other to change their lives.

Suddenly, my academic pursuits were not just academic, but were connected to my every day life. It has been challenging and wonderful to be in an academic environment where I could combine all of my interests in one interdisciplinary study and then be acle to apply it in the practice of my daily life. However, much of my education was happening outside of the formal classroom.

When I started at Hampshire, I had to find a work study job. I'd had experience working with children and was intrigued by the fact that my school had a farm, so I applied to work at the School-To- Farm Program.

I had images of working with cute elementary schoolers, helping them feed goats, and chickens. However, I found myself working with high school special needs students.

We still fed goats and chickens, but I also started teaching academic lessons. For my first two years at School-to-Farm, I had no intention of becoming a teacher. I studied race and gender in classes and then taught language arts, math, and social studies to four students individually with various cognitive difficulties. My academic goals were not connected to my job. However, somewhere in there, my goals changed.

From my encounters with my own and others' white privilege, I knew the thrill of being able to connect theory and practice. I realized that teaching would be a perfect way to be able to apply most of the theories I had been learning about race and gender into practice. My third year, I started teaching history at School-To-Farm. For that class I did a project studying the incorporation of critical thinking into a special needs history class.

I was able to direct my education to learn more about the teaching I was involved in. This year, I am doing much the same thing. The last year of a Hampshire College education is spent Division III, a self-designed, independent project investigating a topic in depth.

I am still teaching the history class at School-to-Farm and now I am also a mentor at the nearby middle school's after school program. My main goal for what I am studying now is to apply it to my future goal of becoming a middle school social studies teacher. Throughout my college education, I have set my own goals and worked through the steps needed to reach them.

The whole process of designing my own education has been a large accomplishment for me. Post a new comment Error. We will log you in after post We will log you in after post We will log you in after post We will log you in after post We will log you in after post Anonymously.

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The first half of the day will be spent with Teach For America interviewers and other candidates as a group. Each candidate will teach a sample lesson while the rest of the group participates as “students.” The entire group will also work together on a problem-solving activity. ESSAY #1 I hope to join Teach for America for what seems like a simple reason: I want to teach. Specifically, I want to teach middle school social studies or history. What thrills me about teaching is the constant challenge of finding better ways to motivate students and make learning relevant to their lives.

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Doing well in school is the surest way to a better life, and I feel that by joining Teach For America I would be able to help these individuals gain perspective and understand the value of a good education. Ideas on how to trim them down to five hundred words would be very helpful. the first is a letter of intent, the second an essay about my greatest accomplishment in the past four years. ESSAY #1 I hope to join Teach for America for what seems like a simple reason: I want to teach. Specifically, I want to teach middle school social studies or history.