I have vivid memories of new teachers joining my school families and then saying goodbye to them only a few years later. As a young girl, I always wondered why our teachers kept leaving, but never really gave it too much thought. Instead, my classmates and I would just welcome the new teachers into our school the following year.
When the time came for me to decide what impact I would have on my community after graduating from college, it was clear to me that teaching was an area where my perspective and drive was needed the most. Seeing teachers come and go definitely deepened my own commitment to teach in my community for years to come.
Our district kept graduating seniors who were not equipped for the post-secondary world, we were facing a drastic teacher shortage and schools were filled with fewer and fewer teachers who mirrored the identities of our students. I decided to join Teach For America as a secure way to earn my credential and enter the classroom back in my community.
I went through the many exams, training and requirements asked of me and earned my credential to teach secondary English to brilliant students in Richmond, CA. Over the last few months, as my two years in the corps were coming to an end, my peers began sharing their summer plans and conversations around leaving the classroom began happening as well.
I immediately felt a huge discomfort, and after reflecting on why, I was reminded of the way I felt when my own teachers seemed to walk through a revolving door, in and out of my school. I found inspiration in my peers who, like me, are from the community in which we teach, and also hold a deep commitment to staying within our community as teachers, or in other education-related roles that benefit the same students and young people.
Teach For America has been the recipient of massive amounts of critique lately by the media, legislative bodies and even teachers in the districts where we teach. Within California, AB 221 aims to ban “inexperienced” teachers, teachers like those within TFA, from teaching in “predominantly low-income schools,” according to an Ed Source article published on the bill. Garcia, the former teacher and author of the bill, argues that the reasoning behind it is that as soon as teachers reach proficiency in year two or three, they leave the school and a new one enters. Garcia and the critics of Teach For America need to realize that teachers are not signing up to teach in our districts by the numbers, we are facing a real and challenging teacher shortage and TFA teachers are there to ensure that students have a quality education, why would we prohibit students from this with this type of legislation?
The reality is that the teaching process would not have been facilitated for me had it been without Teach for America. A recent EduWonk article surrounding TFA and its impact on student achievement emphasized the fact that it’s one of the largest providers of teachers and stressed the fact that these teachers perform on par with their peers in the profession. Some of my most memorable teachers had been a part of TFA and I associated the program with the great education they provided for me and my peers during my time in school.
While it has been challenging to witness my colleagues leave my community and explore new endeavors, I am glad that they will have the perspective gained from their work in the classroom to guide their leadership elsewhere. I plan on staying in the classroom for years to come and innovate my practice in order to prepare my students for their post-secondary journeys. The reality of the current teaching profession means that I will have colleagues come and go along the way but putting teachers against teachers does not further academic outcomes, having collaborative cultures where teachers mentor and support one another can.
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