About this blog Subscribe to this blog

Thompson: TFA Teachers Deserve Better Than TFA Alumni Are Providing

0906OPEDmortis-popupIt takes two or three years before a young teacher in a troubled school can find the restrooms.  But the trial by fire should not be so hard.   All teachers - alternatively certified or not - deserve better preparation and mentoring.  All teachers - in charter or neighborhood schools - deserve adequate disciplinary backing. All students deserve orderly classrooms, not the chaos made worse by the scapegoating of teachers. 

Rookie teachers'  ordeals are made worse by the "blame game" and the dishonest claim that classroom management problems are largely due to individual and not systemic failures. The tragedy is that TFA leaders have forgotten another truism, "a little knowledge is a dangerous thing."  TFA leaders who are now running school districts seem to have deluded themselves into believing they also found a simple answer to systemic problems. Criticizing young teachers, however, is no way to reduce the venomous culture that some former TFAers are perpetuating now that they are in power. - JT(@drjohnthompson)


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Thank you for raising the issue of the new education leadership by TFA alums. I was certified initially through an alternative program for teacher prep, surviving the trial by fire and staying on for several years. In the first 2-3 years, I drank the Koolaid and accepted that veteran teachers accounted for most of the problems in elementary and secondary education. However, I also had an MBA and studied organizational behavior. As I grew more secure as a teacher, I began to evaluate the claims against reality. What became apparent was that there was deadwood in the system, but it did not die a natural death. The system treads teachers, cycling through a series of new heroes and failing to sustain mature staff. Veterans are trapped in a closed pension system as they become the acceptable scapegoats for naive leaders. A more robust leadership model beyond instructional role modeling (by the new kids in town)is desperately needed.

"What became apparent was that there was deadwood in the system, but it did not die a natural death"

I wish I said that. Mind if I steal it?


TFA has gotten way too large to effectively manage a system that requires the personal touch. Their mentoring and training program has NEVER been strong. Take it from someone who knows and has watched TFA teachers in schools. TFA corporate does not have a solid program and the right people to mentor thousands of new teachers (and I mean new). They need more personal attention and feedback on classroom management and instructional strategies. TFA thinks you can give them a 6 week boot camp and some periodic checkins and that's enough. Corporate TFA does not get it and they are not held accountable by their funders. It is too large an organization to effectively manage a system requiring a more nimble and flexible structure.


I’m seeing this all too frequently recently, as my boyfriend gets into teaching, in terms of a failure to prepare incoming teachers. At one school he worked at, he was told to arrive at 7:30, only to find the school doesn’t open its doors until 8. He was left waiting outside for half an hour. The day only got worse from there, as nobody knew what class he was supposed to be subbing for.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in This Week In Education are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.