About Me

Welcome! A little about me. I graduated from a college in Washington state a few years ago and went down to Austin to work for a college-access non-profit as an AmeriCorps member for two years where I taught after-school, college prep classes. I loved the job and working with the students there and felt that it sparked an interest in me to pursue a career in education. Hence, I joined Teach For America and went up to Detroit in 2010 to teach in the inner city there. After a promising start, things quickly spiraled out of control (I was switched into three different grade level classes at two different schools in my first two months – none of which were even close to grade levels/subjects I was trained/prepared for and each class I came into was more insanely unmanageable and out of control than the one before it) and I eventually resigned from the organization due to the extremity of the stress and awfulness of the situations I was put in and how they were drastically jeopardizing my mental and physical health (more details about my journey are available on the main page posts).

Now I deliver pizzas and work with a 23-year-old with special needs in Detroit while I’m looking into future options. I’m also no longer miserable, anxious and unbelievably stressed out every day, although I am still incredibly bitter and angry at Teach For America for the situations they threw me into as well as sad, disappointed and discouraged by my experience. I really wanted to teach and to become deeply involved in education and felt this was my path to do so. Apparently, I was wrong about that last part. I started this blog as I began noticing that my situation (while unique in some ways) was not at all unheard of with TFA and I felt a forum for the discussion and sharing of TFA stories would be cathartic and helpful. I’ve since expanded the scope of the blog to include my thoughts on various developments in education as I began noticing a disturbing trend that TFA is front and center in pushing for and based on my admittedly limited experience is not at all a helpful or healthy direction for education in this country to move in…I appreciate and welcome any and all thoughts!🙂

20 Responses to About Me

  1. Giancarlo Arniella says:

    Hi, my name is Giancarlo and I am strongly considering joining Teach for America. I can see that you strongly recommend not to, but I’m still interested in doing so and would like to know if there is a specific city or state in which these horror stories are not common or completely non-existent. I don’t need to know right away, so take your time in examining the information that you have. Thanks.

    • jasherwilliamson says:

      TFA horror stories are going to occur in every region, primarily as a result of the program’s inadequate training model. However, I would venture a good guess that the most difficult regions (and thereby ones with the most challenging students/schools and ones with the highest percentage of horror stories) are the most impoverished/violent/out of control/de-stabilized urban and rural areas (e.g. Rio Grande Valley, Detroit, parts of LA and NYC, New Orleans, MIssissippi Delta, etc.). I would say that if you are still determined to do TFA despite the many reasons to avoid the program, try to get into a region like Denver or Hartford or somewhere along those lines.

  2. Sarah says:

    Giancarlo- I did TFA in Phoenix, AZ and had a very positive experience, as did most of the other corps members in my region. It is true that the issues in some regions are certainly more difficult and emotional than others. Good luck, and God bless.

    • jasherwilliamson says:

      Certainly, plenty of TFA members in all regions have decent or even very good experiences despite the lack of good training they receive. However, there are also plenty of horror stories in every region (or at least most regions) and plenty of in-between cases. For the most part, it really just depends on the school situation one is placed into and you don’t really have any control over that. Best of luck though if you do decide to do the program!

      • Zachary Taylor says:

        Giancarlo, it’s not just where you are placed or the types of kids that you get. It’s also WHO you are that matters. I think it’s easier to assume that if you have a bad experience it’s the school’s fault, or the student’s fault, or even society’s fault. At the end of the day, YOU make the decision about what you do in response to these challenges. The fact is that it’s rough all around and whether or not you’ll enjoy your experience and be successful is more dependent on how you react to the adversity than to your students or your school.

      • jasherwilliamson says:

        I do accept responsibility for not quitting TFA sooner than I did, but I do not accept responsibility for being told numerous things by the organization that were blatantly untrue, for being placed in elementary classrooms when I had been trained/prepared for high school, for being placed at new schools that could not meet enrollment numbers or keep me in my initial classroom (one of those many things that had been promised numerous times), for receiving incredibly inadequate training, for getting minimal support once in an impossible classroom situation, etc. I’m as big of a fan of personal accountability as anybody, but organizations also need accountability and sadly mainstream media, many education types, elites in society, etc. have not held TFA accountable at any level. That’s unfortunate for the children TFA teachers get assigned to teach and also for the many Corps members who have had horrific TFA experiences based on lies/inadequate training/lack of support, etc. from an organization that promotes itself so heavily in a positive manner without disclosing any of the possible risks/downsides.

  3. Jarvis Green says:

    I think you need to take personal responsibility for these issues. Not at any point did you ever seem to admit anything you failed at, even, “well I could have improved this area.” You just automatically blamed TFA. Any education program, even a college degree or a masters degree program (trust me, I have been there), will adequately prepare you to teach in a challenging urban environment. You have to have a will to learn, and a drive for personal improvement. You haven’t mentioned ANYTHING about what your goals were at all. Did you set goals? Or did you assume they would fail after your first day? You have to take the initiative upon yourself. If you aren’t a self-starter, maybe you should reconsider TFA. No one is going to give you the answers.

  4. Justice says:


    • Zachary Taylor says:

      It’s really unfortunate that you feel that way. The fact is that these TFA folk are as “hard working and caring” as traditional teachers (and often equally as effective). They don’t steal jobs and there is NO data to support this claim. No one is forced to hire them – schools are interview them as a part of a pool of candidates and some get hired and some don’t – they’re not guaranteed a job. The reality is that most of the schools in which TFA operates have experienced extreme personnel shortages in the past – most of my kids were taught by long term substitutes.

      It sounds like you’re the one that needs to come down off your pedestal and refrain from making generalizations about a group people or an organization whom you barely know.

      • jasherwilliamson says:

        Your post description is vastly inaccurate based on my personal experience with the Detroit Corps, but perhaps what you describe is still the case in a handful of more remote regions. It’s certainly not the case in Detroit or in my home city of Seattle, where TFA got a hold in a few districts there despite heavy opposition from teachers unions and despite the fact that there are tons of traditionally certified teachers across the Northwest who cannot find full-time teaching jobs.

      • katherine says:

        Jasherwilliamson makes a very good point. I have a sister who teachers in Seattle and a brother who completed two years of TFA in Detriot and is now working in the administration. I see more teaching expertise and understanding of the education system in my sister than I see in my brother, who couldn’t stand teaching and is now trying to make a difference through the administration. This is similar to many other young TFA alumni entering the Seattle school districts. Moreover, regardless of if there is proof that TFA steals jobs, they do not train college graduates enough to be adequate teachers. There is data that shows teachers with 5 years of training perform better than teachers with 4 years of training.

    • jasherwilliamson says:


      • taylorzn says:

        I think that the key takeaway here is “my personal experience.” Much of what is being posted here is based on conjecture and speculation – nothing more. Many of the regions in which TFA operates have both teacher surplus and a job surplus. This exists because many traditional teachers choose to avoid jobs in these cities as they are less than ideal (to say the least). Furthermore, cms and traditional teachers have to compete for jobs in the same pool and make their case to principals. Principals are going to make the decision that they believe is best based on the facts as they see them. There is no conspiracy or hidden contracts. In fact, each year some cms are NEVER hired and have to be released. In short, cms in classrooms do not automatically equal traditional teachers without jobs.

        Additionally, the fact that cms are equally as effective as other new teachers poses an interesting question regarding how well we are preparing teachers at our universities. From an empirical perspective, it is hypocritical to attack cms and not new tradtional teachers considering that they have similar-to-same effectiveness and drop out rates.

  5. E.N.D. says:

    I am currently a CIty Year Corp member working in a Detroit High School and one of the classes I am in is with a TFA member. there are a handful of TFA people in my school and they are actually some of the “best Teachers” as far as thinking outside the box on incentives and activities to keep the kids’ interested. alot of the other teachers who have been here for a while are burned out and I hear quite often, “no, let them fail, they got attitudes, they can be clowns with Ronald McDonald” personally I am thinking about TFA for myself simply because they will certify me as a teacher. I have been in the classroom as a volunteer, lead teacher of pre-k, para-professional in high school and have over 200 experience hours for school. But I also am a single mother of a two year old and for the last 3 years have been going to school full time and working 2-3 part time jobs. I have taken all but 36 credits of my original teaching program at an University, passed initial teachers tests, been accepted into college of ed but even with completing those credits I would never be able to become certified, I have no support and could not afford student teaching, currently, as a city year corp member I’m working 11 hour days 5 days a week and getting a living stipend and still struggling, I am applying to TFA because it is a non-conventional way to become certified but I also have been working towards my goal of being a teacher in a Detroit high school since I was 13, I would probably not do this program with no education experience.

  6. Corey says:

    I never so much as thought of joining Teach For America because I totally disagree with the way the organization does business, and besides I never wanted to teach, and even if I did thanks to the abysmal state of services for the learning disabled I didn’t have grades that were good enough (but they were by no means shabby).

    I hope this counts as a horror story: My first year I was in a class where I was having a lot of trouble. We had a teaching assistant who was supposed to be helping us, providing the odd bit of one on one tutoring, and answering our questions.

    She was woefully inadequate at this. Not once did she stay with me long enough to fully answer my questions in class, and instead of seeing me alone for 15 minutes after class she would send out a group email inviting 20 other students to be there. Due to this lack of help I pretty much flunked the class (and this could have been remedied with 20 minutes of tutoring now and again.) She was one of the professors (and he wasn’t so good at his job either) favorites, so he always made excuses for her. She couldn’t do her job.

    She went into Teach for America in pad her grad school application. To work with children who have the same learning problems I do. Then she wanted to go to grad school. To work with children with learning disabilities. Near the end of the semester I let her have it and she had a hissy fit.

  7. S says:

    After getting my Master’s Degree and having a difficult time finding a teaching position, I resorted to many odd – end jobs. One of them was being a long – term substitute teacher at a school that served disadvantaged students in Northern California. It was common for the school to hire teachers from TFA. Many of the students I worked with were English Language Learners. From my experience, even with being a substitute teacher, I was overwhelmed and stressed by the students’ behaviors. I was appalled that a few of the students referred to me by racial slurs. I was constantly writing reports to the teachers apologizing for not being able to satisfy their requirements for that day, but there was so much that I could say about the many disruptions that occurred during class time. Administration offered very little support and discouraged me to send the students with challenging behaviors to the office. Because I was a substitute teacher, I also felt disconnected at the school, but one teacher confided to me that many of the teachers at that school will quit and/or there’s likelihood that they won’t return after their term.

    After quitting my position at the school, I applied to many positions within the public school districts in low – middle class areas. My experience in education is so much better now: I can’t link my better experience to the public school system, but I will say that I will never look back to teaching at the charter schools that serve students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

    Thank you for your insight!

    • pencilshank says:

      I also had a tough time with student behaviors while substituting. I also had a tough time finding a teaching job. I am currently looking for people to interview for a Podcast that will discuss these issues. If you are interested in sharing your stories…please e-mail me at pencilshanks4teachers@gmail.com and tell me who you are. If you do not want to reveal your name so that you can really say what you need…that is what we are looking for. I want people to be as honest and real as possible.

  8. dick J. says:

    I think everyone here is dancing around a Topic that everyone is aware of; but forbidden to say. Lest, you are looking to be labeled and commit career suicide. It’s unfortunate the truth can’t be discussed. The empirical evidence is overwhelming. Which country has a 100 trillion dollar bank note? Go to Craigslist South Africa, click on the for sale column, see what you find. Spells, Embalming powder, abortion pills, Albino children, ‘good luck’ “body parts”; taken from albino’s while still alive.
    There is a website called “hey jackass”. The contents give an accurate description of who is committing crime, and who the victims are.
    Doctors, Lawyers, stockbrokers, and insurance co’s use charts with detailed data all the time, why is information being withheld?

  9. pencilshank says:

    Hello, I am currently looking for people to interview for a podcast for teachers. I am very interested in your story. If you are interested in a 15-20 minute phone interview…that would be great! I do not have my website up as of yet but I am currently seeking content to post. This website will be the horror stories of the teaching profession. If you want to remain anonymous and just tell me the story and where you worked so that you can be as raw as possible. That is what I am looking for. Please e-mail me if you are interested at pencilshanks4teachers@gmail.com

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