Today I got another email from Teach For America.
To be totally honest, there have been some things that I haven’t really put up here. But the truth is that I’ve quickly become disillusioned with this organization and its message. I’ve realized that TFA’s primary purpose isn’t to end the achievement gap, or help students, or solve the problems in our education system; it’s really to grow and maintain a strong corps.
While I understand that the organization is doing its best, I can’t accept my offer. As much as I would love to be a teacher, the fact is that I’m not qualified, either as a teacher or in my subject area. When I mentioned this to them, they told me that because of the shortage in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) teachers, Arkansas needed me. They told me that I would be far from the worst teacher there, and that I should not worry. I asked them how putting another unqualified science teacher (me) into the mix would solve the problem – they didn’t answer. I told them that one of my professional goals is excellence, and I didn’t feel I could achieve that through their offer – they told me I was being selfish. I applied to TFA because I’m passionate about education and felt that I could be a good teacher. I pointed out that I would not be a good science teacher, and that was preventing me from accepting – they told me that the alternatives were worse.
Basically, I was told that I might be an awful teacher, but I’d be better than the worst ones so it wasn’t a big deal, and that I should really put all my professional and personal plans and dreams on hold to be a sub par teacher in a subject I don’t enjoy.
Call me convinced.
And then today I got an email – they sent me a paragraph from the application I originally submitted way back in March. They told me to listen to my own voice, and make a decision based on my own words. Here’s what I had written:
“When I was younger, I thought everyone had the same privileges. I thought everyone got great teachers and parents who read to them, and textbooks that were in good condition. And then I realized that not everyone did, and that I had advantages many did not. I want to become a corps member because I believe that everyone has a right to receive equal educational opportunities, and I know that given my background and my abilities, I can help provide that…Students deserve to have teachers who care about them and are willing to go above and beyond to help them succeed – I truly believe that I can be that person.”
While I still believe the things I wrote, the fact is that I no longer believe in the organization itself. I will always be passionate about educational inequities. I will always believe that every student deserves a chance to reach their full potential. I will always believe in my own power to help, and make change. But I no longer believe in TFA.
I know that I have no business accepting. I owe it to myself, and to the children who would have been my future students, not to.
I guess that makes me selfish.
**I would like to make a quick note that while there were some people who were really unhelpful, there was one woman in Arkansas who helped me immeasurably. We talked about lesson plans, and she really worked as hard as she could to make sure that I knew what I was getting into, and that I had as much information as she could give me. I can’t thank her enough for all her help these past two weeks, and my one regret in turning my offer down is that I wasted so much of her time trying to decide what I was going to do.