Every year before institute, TFA hands out homework. Last year, I received a 5 lbs box with all of the material printed in a specialize book, a workbook, a Teaching As Leadership book, and a CD with stories on it. Most of the material in the book (mostly copies from other books) was how to teach. I had begun learning about different issues in the classroom and how to be a better teacher. They were providing information about how teachers teach. It was a Godsend, because I was really worried about how to teach.
This year, I’m not sure if I received a box or not as I didn’t have them ship said box to my international address. But we got an email yesterday with access to the materials online. (Which I don’t really like, I can’t process information from a computer screen…) Anyway, they’ve decided to go more paperless this year, claiming it gives you more choice in how you process your information.
And then I got to this part of the letter:
While, formerly, this preparation centered around the technical aspects of teaching—like classroom management and lesson planning—we found that trying to learn the craft of teaching from a book (with no opportunity for practice) was not helpful to many people. That’s not to say teaching-related content is entirely absent from this year’s pre-work. Nor is it to say that we don’t see pedagogy as central to your training. In fact, Institute will focus on helping you grasp teaching’s nuts and bolts as you empower your summer school students to make incredible academic strides. But, you’ll notice that much of this work focuses on the systemic causes of the achievement gap and the kind of leadership that’s required to gain traction against them. We believe that by grappling with the causes and consequences of educational inequity and by considering who you are as a leader, you’ll arrive in the classroom better poised to fight for and with your students and their families.
I’m not sure I like this change. I feel that I liked the ability to learn some of the technical aspects of teaching before the 5 weeks boot camp called institute. They are asking for our feedback, and I will give them the benefit of the doubt. But I’m always a preparer and they’ve taken away my ability to prepare. I still have the stuff from last year, and maybe some of it will be the same.
Overall, maybe I’m just missing the memo where knowing possible causes of why my students might or might not be succeeding will help make me an effective teacher. I (currently) think that they should have focused on the actual aspects of teaching, because we would have had more than 5 weeks to process this.
Also included was this:
It’s worth noting here, too, that we want this spirit of collaboration to influence our ongoing work as a national community. While we’re really proud of what we’ve done for and with our corps members over the past two decades, we have sometimes failed to create an environment where our corps and staff members felt united in the same fight. At times, our corps members have suppressed their real thoughts, feelings, and selves—because they felt that doing “what Teach For America asks” seemed easier.
We’re working on this.
At times, our ideas about how to make your experience more personal, more honest, and more organic may be right on. At other times, we’ll surely miss the mark. One thing’s for sure: it’s going to take each one of us—corps and staff—working in step, to be the kind of community that fosters radically different opportunities for our students.
Food for thought…