Welcome to Recovering from Teach For America! I started this website with the hopes of it becoming a forum on sorts where people can share about their experiences with Teach For America (both positive and negative) and provide each other support and encouragement. I’ll primary be blogging my thoughts about my experience/the organization as well as providing links to resources I have found helpful in my own “recovery from TFA.” I welcome anyone else to post regarding their experience as well! The more, the merrier!
Without a doubt, Teach For America took a remarkable mental, emotional and even physical toll on me as an young, hopeful educator-t0-be and a human being. It has been a very disheartening, discouraging and challenging few months for me since I went through my horrendous TFA experience and ended up resigning due to the stresses of the situations I was repeatedly thrown into by the organization.
In a nut shell, I joined Teach For America in the 2010 school year as part of the new Detroit Corps. I got off to a fine start – survived Institute just fine (although I thought it was virtually worthless in terms of preparing us to actually teach), met great fellow Corps members, was placed in a great, manageable, small 5th grade class at a really cool, brand new charter school, but then things quickly spiraled out of control about a month into the school year. The school I was placed at didn’t meet their enrollment goals as a first-year school, so they couldn’t make their budget and as a result (despite doing a great job), I was switched from my 5th grade class to a 2nd grade class within the school, which was horrible. The kids hated me for replacing their beloved former teacher, acted out like crazy every day and I had no clue what to do with a bunch of savage 7-year-olds (although I tried everything I knew how to do, which wasn’t very much). After an exhausting, saddening month of failing miserably and wanting to quit every day I was pretending to teach in this classroom (I was trained for high school math during Institute by the way), the charter school decided to let me go and bring back the old teacher (which was definitely 1,000,000 times better for those students). Two days later with only a few hours notice, I was thrown into an even worse 7th grade classroom environment in a public school (a class that had already driven out multiple teachers with their unmanageable behavior). At this point, things became too much to handle in a healthy way and I reluctantly resigned from Teach For America and began my recovery process. More details about my experience are available in my resignation letter (both my first draft, which TFA “asked” that I re-write and my second draft, which provides more details). These will be in the next post. Part of my hope with this website as well is that it helps dissuade people who had awful experiences with Teach For America not completely give up on their plans to be involved in education or other social pursuits, since as I know from my own personal experience, that is a very possible and likely reaction (at least at first).
I have many problems and questions with what transpired in my TFA experience, including: “Why TFA thought it was ever a good idea to place Corps members at a school that wouldn’t make its enrollment numbers hence guaranteeing they wouldn’t keep their original class no matter how great of a job they were doing?” and “Why TFA refused to let me defer for a year and come back to teach 6th grade at my original placement when this is what the school wanted, what I wanted and what would have been best for the 5th graders I was teaching?” These are just a couple of the questions pertinent to my experience that I wonder about on a regular basis. I’m definitely incredibly saddened and disheartened by my experience and resignation, since I very much thought I wanted to teach and be involved in education (I had worked for a college-access non-profit organization for the two years prior to joining TFA and loved it) and felt this was my pathway to do so. I certainly never had the mindset of “two years of this and then law school.” However, my situation obviously quickly became incredibly unhealthy for me and I know that if I am honest with myself, I am a million times happier now than I was trying to teach in those 2nd grade and 7th grade classes…and that’s a reality that I’m still trying to grapple with and accept (although my having had a brief taste of teaching success in my original 5th grade class placement makes it all that much more bitter/sad to think about).
Anyways, thanks so much for reading and I hope you share your own story or provide any thoughts of your own! They are always welcome!