Friday, April 15, 2011

Teach for America

Sitting in the interview room on KU's campus on a snowy March Monday, tears almost came from my eyes as I was hearing the news from the Teach For America recruiter.  She told our group that in January, the Superintendent of the KC, MO schools had approached TFA with a request to increase the number of TFA corps members teaching in the school district from 50 to almost 200.  I honestly couldn't believe what I was hearing.  That same January, I felt a 'nudge' to check out an online informational seminar from TFA regarding their application process.  While chatting with a TFA recruiter during that seminar and explaining to him my leadership background, he encouraged me to not wait to apply next fall for the 2012 school year (as I'd originally planned) but to go ahead and apply this spring, for the 2011 school year.  This recruiter thought I had the leadership background necessary to get accepted into TFA.

This was interesting news and quite an encouragement.  I had been thinking that 1) I had very little chance of getting accepted into TFA, due to the 48,000 applications they received this year and 2) My educational background didn't qualify me for any secondary content level, so I needed to finish my French work before applying.  As it turns out, I'm already close to being qualified to teach Social Studies.  But due to this recruiter's encouragement and in response to a 'nudge' to participate in this informational seminary, I submitted my application.  I had also been thinking that 3) Even if I got into TFA, the odds of me being assigned to a KC, MO classroom were pretty slim. 

Almost two months later, sitting in that KU classroom, I was blown away to realize that at the exact moment I was getting a coincidental 'nudge' to apply to TFA, Dr. John Covington was making plans to more than triple the number of TFA corps members in KC, MO. 

If you've been paying attention to the news here in KC, you've noticed that there has been a bit of controversy regarding the non-renewal of some teacher's contracts and the hiring of about 150 TFA corps members.  Though I won't go into all the details, it's not surprising that the news media isn't telling the complete story - all those details make the news story's too boring and uncontroversial.  But here's an interview with Dr. Covington, explaining what he's doing.  link

Last week, the new KC, MO TFA corps members had a conference call with Dr. Covington.  Again, I almost had tears in my eyes with the realization of what I'm about to do, while also pumping my fist with excitement.  Dr. Covington explained the changes being made in the KC, MO schools and how he went from being skeptical of TFA to tripling the presence of TFA in the KC, MO classrooms.  Basically, the students of TFA teachers outperformed the 'classically trained' teachers.  He said, "I don't care what organization they come from, I want to hire the best people who will make the best teachers."

Dr. Covington also told us three things about our experience teaching in KC, MO:
1) He's going to make it "very difficult" for us to leave the district after we've completed our two year commitment
2) They are creating a leadership track to prepare TFA teachers for administration
3) We could teach in any inner-city, but if we want to be a part of the transformation of a community, we needed to teach in KC, MO. 

Yesterday, I bought my round trip plane tickets for the Summer Institute in LA, from June 26th to July 30th.  It's going to be really difficult to be away from my family, but I'm ready to start the adventure of TFA.  And this fall, at a KC,MO High School yet-to-be-determined, I'll be teaching middle school social studies. 

And there will be some more blog posts coming, too...

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