Mr. Parello Sensei

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Jun 14 2012

Institute: Reality vs. “Positive Messaging”

I received an email this morning from the TFA recruiting director at my alma mater.  He wanted alums to like the university’s TFA page on Facebook and give advice to new corps members about to start institute.  I was excited to give any advice to help new corps members avoid the disasters of my first year, so I liked the page, and posted some advice on the thread about institute.  I more or less said what I said in my last post: institute would not be enough to prepare them for their first year in the classroom and they should form their own study groups to discuss books on teaching (I recommended Doug Lemov’s “Teach Like a Champion”).  I also advised that teaching was much harder than they could imagine at this point and that things could go wrong.   I noted that I had quit after one year and hoped that they could be successful where I had failed.  I finished my post on a positive note though: I told them that they could succeed and I wished them great luck on their journey.

A few minutes later I got an email from the recruiting director telling me that he had opted to delete my posts.  “We need positive messaging around the Institute experience,” he wrote.  “When folks are encountered with a post that says, ‘I quit after my first year,’ I wonder how that will shape their mindsets as they’re going through Institute.”  I figured that deleting the posts was his prerogative and wrote him back saying that I respected his decision.  Later, I noticed that as well as having my posts deleted, I had been removed from membership on the page. That’s when I got annoyed.

What is TFA afraid of? That new corps members will find out that there are indeed corps members who quit?

It’s a truth that those corps members had better learn about quickly.  The more people like me who raise their voices and let corps members know how to avoid disastrous first year scenarios, the better off those new corps members will be.  First year teaching with inadequate training is a very quick reality check for everyone who does it.  Corps members are not infants, and TFA needs to stop acting like they can’t handle the reality that what they’re about to do is very hard and that the chance of failure is real.  “Positive messaging” should not be a priority.




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