Us vs.Them:Why Can’t Veteran Teachers and Teach for America Teachers Get Along?

on Dec 12, 12 • by • with Comments

My colleague made a very interesting comment in our meeting today. He said, “There’s a competition between veteran teachers and T.F.A teachers.” I raised my eyebrows and was intrigued by his comment. We had a T.F.A (Teach for America) teacher in the meeting with us. I’ve never viewed such a competition,...
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Helping Hand Us vs.Them:Why Can’t Veteran Teachers and Teach for America Teachers Get Along?My colleague made a very interesting comment in our meeting today. He said, “There’s a competition between veteran teachers and T.F.A teachers.” I raised my eyebrows and was intrigued by his comment. We had a T.F.A (Teach for America) teacher in the meeting with us. I’ve never viewed such a competition, but with further discussion, I understood exactly what he meant. There is a division between teachers from traditional teacher preparation programs and those from alternative certification programs, (T.F.A and Troops to Teachers are two examples). I can think of several reasons for this division:
1. There are many businesses and media entities vested in these alternative certification programs. In order to continue building these relationships — and securing their funding — they need to justify THEIR teachers as SUPERIOR to veteran teachers.
2. In several schools, Teach for America teachers receive preferential treatment. Traditionally, first year teachers receive the worst assignments. I know of several schools where T.FA teachers receive ‘easier’ schedules and extra planning time, while veteran teachers ‘pick up the slack’.


3. There are various policies, procedures, and paperwork that come standard with T.F.A teachers. If you know any T.F.A teachers, they have a form for EVERYTHING. I know of several cases where T.F.A teachers are viewed as the ‘standard-bearers’ of the staff when it comes to data, forms, and organization. My principal lauded my T.F.A coworker  in front of the rest of the staff  for making weekly phone calls to parents. However, this teacher had an extra planning period–she has time to make that contact.


4. Veteran teachers often feel like the child who feels left out when the new baby comes along.
5. There is a view that T.F.A teachers view teaching as a ‘public service’ and most have no intention of remaining in the classroom beyond their two-year obligation. Many veteran teachers received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education and view education as a career, not simply as a ‘Peace Corps’ stint on the way to the career they ‘REALLY’ want.
While I understand why these divisions exist between veteran teachers and T.F.A teachers, it does not have to be this way. There is room in the classrooms across America  for teachers who come from alternative education programs along with traditional education programs. Yes, there are changes that must be made in traditional educator preparation programs. Most of these programs do not provide an accurate depiction of what teachers will see in the classroom. Teach for America and other such programs do a good job of offering support to teachers while they are in the classroom by providing a variety of resources and mentoring programs to help teachers transition into the profession.

In my career in education, I’ve learned a lot from my Teach for America colleagues. I like the resources they have available; they are the ‘Data Kings/Queens’. That being said, many of the T.F.A teachers I know have serious struggles when it comes to classroom management and managing other realities of the classroom. Instead of pitting veterans against the T.F.A teachers, school administrators would benefit most by focusing on what each does well to maximize capacity of the staff, thus enhancing learning opportunities for the students. It’s not US vs. Them; we’re all in this for the kids.

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Comments

  1. wendihmhee says:

    Wish we could agree, Jania. But we are NOT all in it for the kids. People who choose the teaching profession for the long haul are in it for the kids. People who chose teaching because it helps them get into grad school are in it for themselves.

    Moreover, organizations such as TFA hoard much needed resources for themselves. For example did you know TFA has more than $300 in resources while teachers at my school have to purchase their own paper? http://dianeravitch.net/2012/11/29/j-crew-raising

    Or that in four years TFA raised a billion dollars while my school had to lay-off staff. http://dianeravitch.net/?s=TFA+billion

    Not only aren't we all on the same side, some of us are apparently competing.

  2. Samantha says:

    I've never worked with a TFA teacher, but I don't see anything wrong with an extra planning period for a brand new teacher, no matter if it's a chosen career or a temporary thing. I wish I had some extra time my first and second year teaching; maybe then I wouldn't have felt so overwhelmed and could have done a better job managing my classes and teaching. Another way to look at it is that by giving newbies or TFA's a little extra planning time, they will be more likely to stay in teaching for the long haul because they won't be burnt out after two years. Giving brand new teachers the toughest assignments is one of the reasons why there is such a high turnover rate. New teachers need a ton of support, but they don't often get it.

  3. Arnold Fege says:

    The national policy goal should be: how do we get the most effective teachers teaching our most challenging and special needs students. 5 weeks of TFA training, and two years or less in the classroom short changes the students we are saying we want to help. How many of us would want a 5 week trained doctor? Pilot? Lawyer? Then why is it ok for our low income, special education, ELL and rural children? Mentoring, coaching, college loan forgivness, professional development, collaboration, practice, pedogogy–these are among the essential elements that EVERY child deserves, and EVERY skilled teacher has. TFA is a 20 year old out dated model that needs the change with the times.

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