Friday, February 6, 2015

A Veteran Teacher's Take on Teach for America- Guest Post by Justin Williams

I'm an actual teacher, the real McCoy. I trained to do what I do my junior and senior year of college. My first year in the field was as a substitute teacher by day, English teacher to alternative school 18-20 year old kids from 6-9 pm Monday through Thursday. I was 23 years old. I then went back to school for a year (full time, scholarship) to complete a master's degree. Then I got a full time teaching job during the day and coached football and track on and off for 15 more years, straight. In this regard, I am not special. Millions of my colleagues had similar experience coming out of accredited teacher preparation programs with great track records of producing teachers who prove to have staying power in the field.

Even with two years of teaching preparation, many teachers do not make it to year three in the field.

Teach for America, conversely, produces teachers with FIVE WEEKS of training before they are unleashed into the neediest classrooms in the neediest schools located in the neediest communities. Most of these people cannot possibly expect to be in the field very long. If I trained to be a surgeon or trial attorney for five weeks, how could I possibly expect to last in those professions? What on-the-job damage would I commit while in the midst of my hubris? How would my colleagues feel about my presence, my preparation, in comparison to theirs?

Excellent teaching is a science acquired over a number of years. If 1 in a hundred doctors in a 5 week Medicate for America program managed to be great long-term doctors in the field, would that be a valid argument to expand the program?

Public education needs to be upgraded, no doubt, but let the experts (people like us) work on the details of that. Working with politicians and parents, we'll get things done right.