I'm baaaaaaack.

Hoarding All the Glitter Since 2001.

04 December 2011

My Problem with Teach for America, in One Ancedote.

A couple of years ago, I had a letter published in the New York Times.  In responding to an article, I decried the false dichotomy between academic and play-based early childhood education.  Play is academic, and academics should be embedded in play.  The trick of teaching is to create the framework that enables children to integrate their learning and use it across disciplines.

The letter following mine was authored by a Teach for American.  She was solidly anti-play; her students did not deserve play because they did not know the alphabet when they entered Kindergarten.  Nor had their parents taught them to count.

(Neither do many of mine, which is why they deserve play.  Some of mine do, though - that's why they also deserve play.)

And that's my issue with Teach for America.  If your worldview holds that the schools are broken, all of your assumptions will be negative.  The children aren't ready for school.  Their parents don't know how to parent.  The teachers aren't very good.  The neighborhood is crummy.  When you start with the bad, you will never get anywhere good.  You can't see the many things your students can do, so you can't find somewhere to start.  You don't acknowledge that norms of parenting may differ from your own: there's good and bad, not different.  Teaching is not a craft that you hone through experience, and your fellow teachers are not humans - they're lazy, bad people destroying children.  You will never walk comfortably or be a valued part of a community you disdain.

TFA is the sum of starting with the negatives.  Nothing good comes from deficit thinking.

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