Saturday, December 4, 2010

It doesn't count if nothing happens

Negotiating one of the many technical corners at the Turkey Trot CX

That's what I've been telling myself, repeatedly, after finishing up the interview process with Teach for America. I know that I was told to keep all my interviewing experiences confidential, but, as the title says, it doesn't count if nothing happens (grammar?), and seeing as how I have to wait 1 month until I hear my fate, I suppose I can write on the process lightly.

The day started very quickly at 9 a.m. sharp. We met in a small conference room, very similar to an upper-division seminar room, in one of the many incredibly posh buildings on the campus of USD. When people say USD is a campus for rich people, they are not lying. USD is a campus among Gods, food prepared by chefs, students playing piano in the lobby to serenade guests; it was all a complete shock. SDSU has absolutely nothing on this school, except for the beat downs we dish out in basketball.

There were 11 total candidates in the room with 2 interviewers. Right off the bat I noticed that the candidates were nervous about the upcoming teaching lessons. An early attempt to break the ice was met with cold stares, as I suppose many of these kids were extremely nervous and under the impression that we were all competing against each other.

The 5 minute teaching lessons were next, it was easy to see those who had no idea what teaching is about. Most of the lessons were fine, and mine was going quite well but, as is the case with most of my teaching in general, I talk to much. 10 more seconds and I would've been fine.

The rest of the morning sessions involved group work, in which all of the candidates in my group were trying to recite as many of the 'catch phrases' from the Teach for America website as possible: "I think that the educational gap is the biggest problem in this country" "We need to focus on how we can get our students to be more successful" blah blah blah. Uninspired nonsense like this was really beginning to turn me off because it lacked a soul, it lacked passion, and it lacked the long-term commitment: many of these students would be leaving after two years. The whole interview day is quite easy, and after a long lunch break, my 1 on 1 interview took place, with the interviewer taking notes on the computer most of the time, not really responding to my comments.

Again, the interview for TFA is not challenging, and what's more disconcerting, is that this interview process does not truly identify teachers. I'm not quite sure how you can test a teacher on basic quantitative data analysis and conclude that 'hey, this person reads charts quite well, we should hire him/her.' It just doesn't work like that.

What was most troubling for me was finding out about my interviewers, who were in fact former TFA members. After two years of teaching, they left the classroom for recruitment jobs at TFA. If I had one question for TFA, it would be : How can you expect to make great changes in education by allowing teachers to leave the classroom after two years? While I appreciate these teachers' experiences in the classroom, it's quite laughable to hear about how easily they were able to leave the classroom, especially when considering the fact that the first 5 years of teaching is considered to be one big learning curve.

I guess what stands out as the biggest difference between myself and the rest of the recruits and members of TFA, is that I really want to be in the classroom for many years. All I want to do is teach, and when I say teach, I mean fully invest myself in the school and community for the long-haul.

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