Olivia Blanchard quit Teach for America because the five-week training program hadn’t prepared her to teach “difficult” fifth-graders.
I had few insights or resources to draw on when preteen boys decided recess would be the perfect opportunity to beat each other bloody, or when parents all but accused me of being racist during meetings. Or when a student told me that his habit of doing nothing during class stemmed from his (admittedly sound) logic that “I did the same thing last year and I passed.” The Institute’s training curriculum was far too broad to help me navigate these situations. Because many corps members do not receive their specific teaching assignments until after training has ended, the same training is given to future kindergarten teachers in Atlanta, charter-school teachers in New Orleans, and high-school physics teachers in Memphis.
Katrina Ballard explains why she didn’t quit, despite feeling unprepared and overwhelmed.
She’d spent her five-week summer training working with second graders, but was hired to teach middle-school students in Denver.
I struggled with behavior management, making connections with kids who grew up in realities far from my own, and the bureaucracy of working in a public school . . . I was failing at too many things for my ego and my body to handle.
But it wasn’t because she lacked traditional training, Ballard writes.
. . . about half of the incoming staff that year were fresh out of teaching school. They struggled with the same things I did. They found small successes and built relationships with their students, like I did. But TFA or not TFA — it didn’t make a difference.We all felt as though we were drowning.
. . . Teaching in many of our public schools is unsustainable, and many of the teachers don’t last, except for a few golden gems. When I left after my second year in May to come back to New York, about half of the rest of my school staff was quitting, too. Teaching is HARD. REALLY HARD. CAREER TEACHERS ARE SAINTS!
Ballard now directs teacher training at Democracy Prep, a network of New York City charter schools.
More states and teacher prep programs are requiring prospective teachers to pass an assessment of their classroom skills, reports Stateline.