My TFA censorship drama ended yesterday. The administrator of the facebook page who had censored my posts and banned me from the page, expressed to me in an email that he had gone against his own values and felt very guilty for having done so. He told me that my voice was welcome and necessary and that I could play a role in helping new corps members avoid disaster scenarios in their first years. In fact, he said that he had also known corps members who had quit back when he was a CM, and understood the feelings of shame that could come with that. It felt great to have that acknowledged, and the whole little affair filled me with a lot of hope: despite what I see as enormous flaws in TFA at the present time, I think there are a lot of people within the TFA organization who are reasonable (after a little convincing). Sometimes what it takes is to keep raising your voice and speaking out. Over the weekend, several friends from TFA who I had not heard from since the 07-08 school year sent me messages to tell me that they felt the same way that I did.
Here is the advice that I re-posted to new CM’s, with a little bit of the edge taken off as a token of goodwill, but with the original themes fully intact:
“Hello 2012 CM’s. I want to wish you great luck at institute and a good first year with your students. I was a 2007 LA corps member, and I made the decision to leave the corps after my first year because sadly, I never became an effective teacher. To be honest, I got rocked. The good news is, I realized how important the mission of fighting for educational equality is, so in spite of my departure from the corps, I stayed in teaching by completing a traditional credentialing program. My advice to you as you begin your journey is this: your primary struggle in year one will be effective classroom management. If you lose control of that (as I did), you can forget being able to effectively teach material. Institute may give you less time in front of students than you really need to develop these skills, so I would recommend in any free time you get (I know you’re probably laughing at what I just said there) , to get a hold of some books and do some extra studying. I recommend Teach Like a Champion by Doug Lemov. This has many actionable strategies, and a good accompanying DVD. I also recommend Tools for Teaching by Fred Jones, a great management book. For any new CM’s interested, I’d be happy to go into specifics of what management techniques failed for me during my first year, and how to avoid repeating them. My most important message is that this job is going to be really, really hard, but please don’t let that discourage you. This job is so important, and I’m very happy to see new people going out to do it. Fight on and good luck!!“