Okay, here is the update from my undergrads who are going to (or are hoping to) obtain their teaching jobs through Teach for America....
Context: I had dinner last night with two student teachers (who took my middle school math methods course last semester). TFA has a few deadlines, so one of the student teachers has already been accepted into TFA and the other one is still going through the application process. One of the student teachers, the one who has been accepted to TFA, has been assigned to move to Phoenix (so that's why we had dinner -- so we could talk about living in the Phoenix area... she has to move there by May 28, I think). The other student teacher has made a lot of cuts and is going to the in-person interview in a couple of weeks. They're both excellent students and poised, confidence young adults who would present well in an interview setting, so I am not surprised that they would be chosen for something like this.
I asked them to help me understand why a teacher who was certified through a reputable teacher education program would choose TFA as a path.
1. The security of knowing that they already will have a job.
These teachers are being certified K-8. They are nervous that they won't get a job. (I understand; I, too, was nervous about getting a job when I finished school.) But they will have middle school math certification! Shouldn't they easily find a job? Yes, but... they did not fall in love with the idea of teaching middle school aged kids. (I feel like I failed a bit if they did not fall in the love with the idea of teaching middle school after taking my middle school math methods course....) They want to teach upper elementary grades. The student teacher who has already been selected knows for sure already now that she will have a job teaching elementary school. This gives her a feeling of relief.
When the candidates apply for TFA, they choose and rank order 10 regions of the country among 46 options. Phoenix was her third choice. Then they are told that they HAVE to take the first job offer that TFA finds for them.
2. The prestige that comes with being selected for TFA that could make the teachers more marketable when they apply for jobs in the future
. Apparently, they said that TFA has an 11% acceptance rate. My TFA-accepted student teacher wants to eventually go teach elementary school back in her home town, in Northern New Jersey, where elementary teaching positions are tough to come by. She hopes that being selected by TFA carries prestige, something like an "award," that would allow her resume to stand out when she applies for jobs back home in the future and tries to move back to Northern New Jersey. (As an aside, I told her that moving away from the region where I grew up was a healthy choice for me, and I encouraged her to remain open to living all sorts of places in her life, as she is currently doing...)
3. There are some financial benefits.
TFA will provide relocation grants for up to $6,000. So, if she is going to move across the country, it is nice to have some support for it. TFA provides grants for up to $5,500 each year for two years for graduate education (for non-certified teachers, they use this money to pay for their teacher certification program, I think? and certified teachers can use this money toward a master's degree. my student applied for an online master's program at Arizona State University and will use her education grant toward this degree).https://www.teachforamerica.org/why-teach-for-america/compensation-and-benefits
4. There is some professional development provided for TFA teachers.
They receive a 5 week professional development experience in the summer (the crash course for the non-certified people, I guess?). It sounds like there is also some coaching and online support, in addition to the graduate courses they have funding to take.
5. A guarantee of being placed in a high needs school.
This appeals to one of my student teachers more than the other.
I did not write these in order of importance. I don't really know which theme was more or less important to my student teachers. I just numbered them in case the issues would benefit from having an index if people wanted to talk about them.
I said to the TFA-accepted student teacher, "You know, if you wanted to teach in Phoenix, you could probably just move there on your own, show up, and get a middle school math teaching job." She thought that was too risky. If she wanted to move to a place, it was easier to move with a job, and she really wanted to teach elementary school.
That's the update. I like that my student teachers are adventurous and are open to moving to other places. I like that this student teacher in particular is going to Phoenix, because Phoenix would benefit from having her there, because she's a good teacher, and I might even be able to see her and meet up with her when I am there! Although I'm skeptical that TFA is going to be super helpful to her (I don't have any evidence that I should be skeptical... I have a belief based on nothing that TFA is kind of duddy.... maybe it's great?), I like the idea that there is some induction support for her in her first two years of teaching. I think that we need to be smarter, as a field, about how to support teachers in their first 1 - 5 years on the job.