Nearly six years ago—during my college’s first year orientation—I set my sights on becoming an elementary school teacher. Five years ago, I attended a Teach For America (TFA) info session at my college’s library. Many people encouraged me to apply, and (at a time when getting a job is anything but guaranteed) it was tempting. My East Coast liberal arts school is a sort of powerhouse for TFA. Between 40-60 of my class’ 500 graduates went on to TFA. As a comparison, six of us graduated as credentialed K-12 teachers.
Three years ago, I wrote “Why I Won’t Teach For America”. As I complete my second year of teaching (aka the length of a TFA commitment), I firmly stand by that decision for both political and personal reasons. From my personal perspective, here’s why:
I was properly trained to teach.
Had I done TFA, I would have had five weeks of training. Instead, I had literally years. Under the guidance of a master teacher, I experienced it all. If something went wrong or I didn’t know how to respond to a situation, I had people to help me. I studying education theory and pedagogy and learned material I still use every day.
I had a strong first year.
The TFA teachers I know often say things like, “My first year was horrible, but that’s just how it is!” TFA pushes the myth that a teacher’s first year necessarily is rough. In this assumption it is implicit but ignored that the students of these first year teachers are experimented on and get a sub-par education.
Even for credentialed teachers, the first year is challenging and new. But even with that, I loved my first year. I felt prepared, had an amazing class, and was finally doing what I loved. I know I am a better teacher now than I was then, but I also believe that I gave my first students a quality education. This is not because I am inherently “better” than those who teach through TFA, but because I was given the proper training and experiences prior to having my first class.
I teach in and am dedicated to my community.
TFA has applicants rank a number of locations, and the teachers I know got placed all over the United States. Two years after their placements, many are moving back to where they are from or to where they desire to live.
I teach at a school very similar in demographics to those where TFA teachers are placed: 85%+ minority, 80%+ free or reduced lunch, majority ELL. I also teach 10 minutes from where I was born. I foresee myself saving up to buy a house and raising my family in the town. I have connections to the community, and am personally invested in its long-term strength. I feel fortunate that, after two years of teaching, I am already established in the town and not looking for a transfer.
I am a public school teacher.
Had I done TFA, I would have likely ended up in a charter school. TFA has a very close relationship with the privatization movement. In LA, 90% of TFA teachers are placed in charters. I am proud to be working in a school that is making huge gains with an “underserved” population AND is fully public. For so many reasons (way more than can fit in this post!), I am a supporter of public education.
I am a member of my school’s community, not of a “corps.”
When I entered my school at 22 years old, I was by far the youngest teacher. But I was also just that: a teacher. I quickly bonded with the other teachers, many of whom have 10 or 20+ years experience. TFA teachers often say they are “doing TFA” rather than “teaching.” Amongst the TFA teachers I know, there is close camaraderie within the corps members. They live together, party together, and support each other. While this is likely necessary because many of them are placed far from home without any support system, I feel fortunate to be a part of my school’s community, and not an organization.
Teaching is sustainable for me.
Teachers work hard.
Many TFA teachers speak of the burnout they experience. I believe the organization does this purposely: if you are only getting two years out of your teachers, you might as well work them until they can’t do it any more. Every teacher I know—student teacher, career teacher, TFA teacher—gives 110% of herself mentally and emotionally. There are countless long nights and draining days. But at the same time, I know I want to stay in teaching, and I am not doing myself or my current or future students any favors by giving up my sleep and personal life. Moreover, my colleagues are people who are balancing work and personal life (often including kids and other obligations) very well, not other sleepless 24 year olds.
I am not leaving teaching now (or likely ever!).
I know for a fact I will teach next year. While we can’t predict the future, my long-term goal is to stay a classroom teacher. This shapes so much of what I do: I have invested literally thousands of dollars into my classroom and my library, I eagerly attend professional development workshops, I reflect on my practices and preserve my best lessons, and I forge strong relationships with families in the hopes that I will someday teach their children. I firmly believe all of this makes me a better and happier teacher.
The second year TFA teachers I know are taking many different paths. A few are staying in the classroom. Many are getting recruited out of their current placement by charter chains or by TFA itself. Others are going on to graduate school or, yes, to banking.
While there is a lot of dispute over TFA’s retention rate, many state that about 50% leave after two years and 80% after three years. I could not imagine what my second year of teaching would be like if I was planning on packing it all up and moving on to my next professional adventure come June.
One of my largest critiques of TFA is that it focuses on the experiences of the teachers over that of students, and I realize I have done just that here. Still, after two years of teaching, I firmly believe that NOT “Teaching for America” was the best move for me professionally, and certainly was the best service to TFA’s supposed mission that “one day, all children in this nation will have the opportunity to attain an excellent education.”
CAN WE TALK ABOUT MIDDLE EASTERN WITCHES AND WIZARDS THOUGH. AND HOW THEY'RE SPELLS WOULD OBVIOUSLY NOT BE LATIN, GREEK OR ANGLO SAXON, BUT INSTEAD LIKE ANCIENT PHOENICIAN, OR SOMETHING. AND THAT THEIR TIES BETWEEN SPELLS AND MAGIC WOULD BE STRONGER SINCE THEIR WORDS ARE MORE ANCIENT AND FAR OLDER SO THEY'D BE WAY MORE POWERFUL???? SORRY FOR THE CAPS?????
Asketh - the-writers-ramblings
NEVER APOLOGIZE FOR CAPS. PHOENICIAN SPELLS. ARAMAIC SPELLS. LANGUAGES MUGGLES DON’T KNOW ANYMORE THAT HAVE BEEN PRESERVED THROUGH WIZARDING SPELLS IN LITTLE POCKETS OF THE WORLD. SOURCE LANGUAGES NO ONE KNOWS HOW TO ADAPT OR CHANGE ANYMORE BECAUSE THE LANGUAGES HAVE DIED AND PEOPLE ARE AFRAID TO CAUSE LIKE, A NUCLEAR FALLOUT. IM SO EXCITED THANKS FOR THIS.
#WOOOOOO#literally all i wanna do is write a wizarding series set there#and to explore the prejudices of not only class difference and blood difference#but also religious differences and how that affects their magic#and instead of a ministry theres the monarchy#and djinn instead of ghosts#and just ARABIC FOLKLORE /throws rainbow sparkles/#im gonna die#harry potter#language#linguistics#ARAMIC SPELLSSSS#headcanon that bc they use the older/oldest languages middle eastern witches and wizards have no need for wands to channel their magic#bc it’s so pure and strong#ANOTHER HEaDCANON#pets allowed to be brought to school include and are not limited to: sphinxes. fennec foxes. golems.#desert wolves too#basically go big or go home with school pets (the-writers-ramblings)
Witches in secret pockets of Morocco who’ve been casting spells with ancient spices long before wands came about. Warlocks in Egypt who knew the double, magical, meaning behind hieroglyphics. A dead language? Latin and Ancient Greek have NOTHING on hieroglyphs. The veritable cacophany of ideas and spells and magic that the trading routes brought in. The Phoenecians with their many-striped sailboats proudly displayed Persian potion ingredients alongside spelled fishing nets woven by Palestinian wizards. Syrian magical folk meet Greek ones, and realize they can best communicate in the Ancient Greek all serious magical students learn. Curly heads bent over ancient spellbooks, and people stare as they converse in a language not spoken for hundreds of years.
Excuse you but can we not forget the jewish lore masters, poring over their tomes in hebrew and aramaic, preserved from their exiled homeland into the diaspora.
And the development of a syncretic magic in yiddish that mixes the subtle lore and subtle word power of the exiled levantines with the raw brute force of germanic magics. — how else did the golem?
DIASPORA SYNCRETIC MAGICS
jewish wizards offering house elves clothes in accordance with the slave laws
jewish wizards using golems as grunt labor
Yes to the Yiddish spells, too ;-)
Jewish wizards offering clothing to house elves and then constantly debating among themselves whether using a golem or other magically-created entity with some semblance of sentience for manual labor for years or decades is essentially the same thing as keeping a magical being for the same purpose.
See also: endless debates about whether one can use magic on Shabbat, and what sorts of magic qualify as “work”. Like, does it count if you enchant an object ahead of time?
Also debates over the extent to which Divination counts as the “witchcraft” detailed in the Tanach. Actually, I bet there’d be scholars compiling detailed tractates about which spells are kosher, using extensive biblical commentary.
JEWISH WIZARDS HAVING THEIR OWN EXTENDED TALMUD. HOW HAS THIS NEVER OCCURRED TO ME BEFORE??
Magic is a natural extension of the self; Therefore, one should be allowed to use magic on Shabbos. You might put restrictions on what kind of magic, and brewing potions (even ones that don’t require heat) and using wands…
I wrote a paper for a Harry Potter conference on foreign wizardry and how the systems of magic must have evolved to be completely separate entities that have very little in common. We’re only seen a TINY portion of the wizarding world and for the most part it’s Western European. I like to imagine Bill Weasley had to extensively train for cursebreaking in Egypt, because you can’t just waltz into a tomb, wave your wand, shout Latin and expect it to work.
I also love the idea of foreign magics being a bit wonky in a duel against each other because they’re not quite compatible. Like, it’s really hard to block a spell from a foreign wizard because you don’t understand exactly what you’re blocking against.
God, so many foreign wizard feels.