River Deep, Mountain High

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Feb 09 2013

Where Have All the Bloggers Gone?

I recently read Gary Rubinstein’s post entitled: “The Silence of the (Sacrificial) Lambs” and immediately thought back to the classic Paula Cole hit, “Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?” In the past month, his post has generated nearly 100 comments, many from defensive or offended corps members; some of the more insightful comments come from seemingly jaded first years. Interestingly, it appears no one pointed out the obvious: competitive dilution and active discouragement.

Haven’t they heard of Pass The Chalk and Teacher Pop!?

Obviously, Teach For Us has been sidestepped.

Although many thoughtful TFAers shared their stories on this site, Gary clearly drove the majority of traffic to the site (as he pointed out a number of times). A combination of his location (NYC), frequency, depth of content, and allies (e.g. Diane Ravitch, Anthony Cody) amplified his arguably anti-TFA message, effectively broadcasting his views to incoming and current corps members. The thought of having Gary’s blog be the first thing read by potential recruits searching for stories about the TFA experience was CLEARLY problematic. Given the First Amendment, the most feasible option was to drive away potential traffic- audience negated.*

To be clear, I applaud TFA for creating a more streamlined platform for corps stories; many successful organizations do this as part of their branding and social media strategy. TFA just happens to have a disproportionately large share of detractors and the timing of these developments is suspect given the ever increasing negative publicity created by critical alumni such as Camika “Speaka Truth To Power” Royal. Pass The Chalk is without a doubt sanitized, as it should be, but Teacher Pop attempts to “showcase real talk” while “promoting authenticity and transparency.” Yeah, ok….I wish I had a Smart board to break down in front of. I never once shed a tear in front of my crackly chalkboard.

Like I said, it’s a valiant effort, but you’ll naturally get more unfiltered thoughts on an independent site rather than one that’s maintained by the organization. No one has the kind of job security that would allow them to critique their job on such a public forum! Even when I blogged during my 2nd year, I carefully crafted what I wrote- it’s natural. You don’t see Gary R. popping off about Stuyvesant. CM’s are obviously encouraged to post on one of the official, TFA sites, which renders TFU the rebellious alternative for CM’s outside of the mainstream. Very few 2012ers want to put themselves out there like that. I don’t blame them. I hope they are sharing their thoughts with friends and family and go on to have beneficial experiences.

Anyhow, I stopped blogging here last month and intend to create a new blog elsewhere (New Year’s Resolution). At the individual level, many CM’s and alums are making a huge impact both inside and outside of the classroom-  some positively, others not so much. However, as an organization, Teach For America has recently evolved in ways which conflict with my personal convictions and professional values. I don’t say that to be petty, for my perspective goes beyond the back and forth of charter schools, teacher certification, corporate ties, and high-stakes testing.* One of my biggest pet peeves directly involve exploitation and I don’t like the ways in which I’ve seen children, young people, traditional public schools, low income communities, and even the AmeriCorps-based National Service Movement used  in order to further the objectives of  a single organization. There are better ways to ensure an excellent education for all children; I encourage all past, present, and future corps members to continuously question the context of their position and to remain humbly resolved to always seek to do the right thing no matter where your path takes you.

As for me, my path will diverge at this inflection point and as I’ve stated previously“the grass ain’t always greener on the other side, it’s green where you water it.”**


*I should note that I’ve enjoyed interacting with high level TFA staff, who show a strong willingness to engage thoughtfully with a variety of education reform topics.

**”Boy. Oh, Gawd!” (Thanks, Big Sean and Justin Bieber, too, I guess)

***I am a proud AmeriCorps alumnus and the views expressed above do not represent any current or past employers***

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