Sunday, April 28, 2013
TFA Inspiring Early Childhood Education
As a Northwestern student, majoring in Communications and the Integrated Marketing Certificate program, who is preparing to graduate and immediately begin training with Teach For America to teach kindergarten in the fall, I can’t help but wonder about what lies ahead as I begin this journey. Many may be skeptical about TFA Corps members- Are they capable teachers? Do they really help change the trajectory of education for students in America? Do they continue to pursue education past their commitment with the corps? And most importantly, would I want a TFA Corps member educating my child? What I’m glad to report that I have found is that majority of TFA Corps members do continue working in education past their 2-year commitment to the corps. Moreover, TFA alumni create their own programs and education initiatives after the corps. “Finding Our Listening Ears” by Kelly Powers and Jesse Illhardt illustrates how corps members use what they learned during their time in the classroom to create their own educational programs. “Would You Want Your Child Taught By A Teach For America Teacher?” by Heather Harding gives an account of a mother who comes face-to-face with this question when her son is placed in a preschool with a TFA alum. Both of these articles focus on early childhood education, as that is my placement with TFA.
As mentioned, Powers and Illhardt explained how difficult it initially was to get parents excited about enrolling their child into this new program created by TFA alumni. In Heather Harding’s blog “Would You Want Your Child Taught By A Teach For America Teacher?” she speaks directly to the skepticism of a TFA program and its educators. Harding explains her own connection to TFA and how her skepticism about her son’s TFA teacher brought her values and convictions about education to the forefront. As she re-evaluated what she wanted in an educator for her child, Harding found that the answer revealed itself in the way Ms. Laura (her child’s teacher) worked with her son. Ms. Laura’s passion, enthusiasm, and skill proved to Harding that TFA teachers make a positive impact on the institution of education.
While every Corps member will have a vastly different experience, and while parents and students will also have different experiences with Corps members, it is important as always to keep an open mind. Prejudices will arise and questions will be asked, but hopefully constant re-evaluation will only make TFA Corps members better teachers. For TFA Corps members, I would recommend embracing and learning from criticisms and questions about what it means to be a Corps member. For governmental institutions and schools, I would recommend keeping an open mind when presented with the opportunity to work with Corps members. And for parents, I would recommend fostering open communication with your child’s educator. While not at all an easy task, if we all work together, we can close the achievement gap in America.
Julia Bareiss is a senior at Northwestern University majoring in Communication Studies. She plans to begin work with TFA starting in June 2013 and will be placed in Milwaukee teaching early childhood education. Follow her on Twitter: @juliagulia13 and on her blog Life Of Jules at juleslovesdiamonds.tumblr.com