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I was rejected by Teach for America

Posted on March 13, 2012 by dmayer

I was turned down by Teach for America. This year is the first that teachers have been eligible to apply. It may have something to do with all those millions of tax dollars our government rationed out to the organization, or it may have something to do with discrimination, or both. Teach for America has staked its entire service on the notion that professional teachers won’t teach in the schools where they place recruits. I’m an excellent teacher, so I thought I’d apply.

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Before I even finished my online application, a recruiter from TFA gave me a call. He wanted to know what I had in mind to do after my teaching experience. I said I wanted to teach. I explained that I was a teacher with administration credentials, so I might want to become a principal, but mostly I just wanted to teach under-served children in a struggling school. I explained that I was an excellent teacher and had received awards for my teaching. He said that was fine, and if I really wanted to teach that was okay, but the “chatter” over the next couple of months, he said, will be all about what I wanted to do after my teaching commitment was up. He then encouraged me to finish my application to qualify for the phone interview. (TFA loves to promote its high number of applicants, so they don’t like to let any nibblers get away.)

At that point, I was pretty sure I didn’t stand a chance, but I was curious about the process and if I could make it, so I finished the online application. It was fairly standard until I came to the section asking about my affiliation to several different organizations. I was a member of none. Then there were some curious questions asking me about student loans and if I intended to borrow money to pay for expenses if I was accepted. I said no to that as well.

Some people are accepted at that point. I wasn’t. Apparently being affiliated to one or another of those groups assures your acceptance. Somehow magically, at that point, some applicants are foisted straight to the in-person interview, bypassing the online questions and activities and the phone interview. TFA doesn’t explain how that decision is made, just that they know. WOW! But not me, I guess being an excellent teacher was not a strong indicator. I was asked to answer more questions and to give my opinions about some strange situations that had nothing to do with teaching ability.

In fact, throughout the entire application and interview process, I wasn’t asked one question about my education philosophy, knowledge, or skills. I wasn’t asked about my experiences working with kids. Not one question during the phone interview pertained to my teaching. I thought that odd. I was applying for a teaching position, wasn’t I?

The next communication I received from TFA asked for my input about the application and interview process. It was not an anonymous survey, and it must be completed before I would be notified of my status — optional, of course. Hmmm. The first interviewer had hung up on my repeatedly. Bad connection, he said, after I called him back each time. The online activity had scrolling problems which is a concern when taking a timed test. (I wondered if children ever had that problem when taking standardized tests.) Hmmm. Would I be chastised for telling the truth? Would my lack of participation be looked upon as capricious? Hmmm. The entire process was lovely, I lied. What else would one say?

A few days later I was notified that I had failed the phone interview. I was rejected by form letter. I’m sharing it with you here.

Dear _____________,

Thank you very much for your interest in Teach For America and for the time and effort you invested in applying to our program and speaking with an interviewer. I am very sorry to inform you that, after careful consideration of your candidacy, we did not select you to advance to the next stage of our admissions process.

Your initiative in applying to Teach For America demonstrates your commitment to expanding opportunities for children and effecting social change, and we would like to offer all candidates a path to realizing these aims. This said, we know that Teach For America is not a fit for everyone. While acknowledging the limitations of any selection process, we have developed a set of admissions criteria over time that helps us identify those most likely to be successful in our particular program.

We know, however, that you have the potential to make a significant contribution to meeting our country’s pressing social needs, and we encourage you to pursue other ways to make a difference. To assist you in your pursuit, we have posted on our website a list of recommended resources. Additionally, if you are interested in being contacted by educational and service-oriented organizations that may wish to recruit Teach For America applicants for similar opportunities, you can complete a short form here.

I am sorry that we will not be able to provide individual feedback on admissions decisions, given that we do not have the resources to handle the volume of potential requests. Although this e-mail may bring disappointment, I hope that your experience with Teach For America thus far has been positive. If you would like to share any anonymous feedback on our admissions process, we welcome your reflections and suggestions here.

I wish you the best in your future endeavors.

Sincerely,

Sean Waldheim
Vice President, Admissions

Here are a few of the fakers I lost out to.

I think if I made a rad effort I could totally groove with these guys. Honey badger the achievement gap, indeed. Snap. Your loss TFA.

Note that the rejection letter makes no reference to teaching either. Here are some of the things I won’t be receiving because I was rejected by Teacher for America. Note that none of these things is paid for by Teach for America even though it collects millions. Teach for America hires no teachers.

Snapshot of Corps Member Compensation

* Salary ranging from $30,000 to $51,000
* Health insurance
* Retirement benefits
* AmeriCorps education award of $10,700
* Loan forbearance and paid interest for two years
* $1,000 – $6,000 of no-interest loans or grants for relocation
* Educator discounts
* Exclusive scholarships and benefits from grad schools and employers

If you are an educator, I suggest you check out Educator Discounts because you may be eligible for some of them. In other words, you don’t have to be a Teach for America recruit to take advantage of many of them.

I know I’m not the only teacher rejected by Teach for America this year. TFA must stop leading with the mantra that certified, experienced teachers will not teach in poor schools. It is simply not true. It is a matter of recruitment and access to jobs. Teachers simply do not have access to TFA jobs because, inexplicably, the government has promised them to untrained, inexperienced corps members who do real harm to children and cost school districts millions. It’s time to stop this foolish, elitist jobs program and give every child a professional teacher.

In the meantime, I wish the new crop of TFAers well. I hope each of you have a better experience than John Bilby, and if you don’t, I hope you’ll have the courage to tell the world about it because every child deserves a great education.

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