What am I going to do when I graduate? It’s the unanswered, looming question hovering over students’ heads throughout the four years leading up to graduation. When caps and gowns are finally donned, students’ fears are mounting, and their parents’ are as well. When that inevitable day finally comes, what are you going to do?
You could get your pilot’s license and move to Alaska, shuttling tourists to backcountry fishing lodges. Or you could get a nine-to-five desk job and spruce up your cubicle with a bobble head. While there are an abundance of solutions to the question at hand, you should at least be familiar with this organization: Teach For America.
Rated “Best Company to Work For” by Fortune magazine for four consecutive years (2008-2014) and 33,000 alumni strong, Teach for America certainly attracts attention. It’s also a big commitment and a bit contentious.
Accused of taking jobs from more experienced teachers and blamed for a number of other practical detriments to the United States’ education system, Teach For America is successful at brushing off criticism simply because there is a lot of good to be said about a company that’s ultimately out to do something good.
The gist of the company’s mission goes like this: recruit professionals and recent college graduates for two-year stints as educators in low-income communities, send new recruits to a seven-week intensive training course, and then place them in teaching positions with “1:1 coaching, professional development, and frequently graduate-level coursework.”
While it sounds a bit like being shot out of a cannon at high velocity, there is evidence to suggest that Teach For America’s setup works. Corps members are often attributed with better teaching performance than other educators, especially in mathematics. Jason Kamras, a Teach for America member, was named National Teacher of the Year in 2005. Independent surveys released every two years show that a majority of principals support Teach For America in their schools. Basically, there is an abundance of information in support of this organization. And yet, teacher unions claim it’s doing harm.
While all of this back and forth may cause a big stir in politics and on ideological levels, at the individual level, joining Teach For America is a choice to make a difference.
Alison Weibel, a current Colorado College student and ’14 Indianapolis corps member is scheduled to begin training two weeks after graduation. She expects the next two years to be difficult. She also expects them to be “emotionally and professionally rewarding.” Weibel further discussed her interest in TFA.
“I have worked with at-risk youth before. I have seen first-hand how economic and educational injustice impacts so many amazingly bright, kind, and driven youths and hinders a path to a fruitful future. I want to help right that wrong, and it is a great building block towards a future career in law and education policy, which I am highly interested in.”
The deadline for applications for next year’s Teach for America class was yesterday.