Before I get into this, let me just remind everyone that I do love Teach For America. I love my dad, too, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t wish he’d drink less. TFA has a lot of great qualities, which is why they have won the hearts of many very rich people who have recently pledged 100 million dollars to set up some kind of endowment fund.
This money will enable TFA to have even more influence over the education of many needy kids, which means that they now will have even more responsibility to do the best possible job of serving those kids.
I haven’t been that impressed by some of the decisions that TFA has made in the past. An example of a very poor decision was the idea that somehow a total of twenty hours of student teaching over a five week training is sufficient (sorry newly accepted CMs — that’s all you get.)
I have a few ideas of how TFA can use the windfall to really impact education. Unfortunately the decision makers do not take what I say very seriously. Yet, I’m confident that I know what I’m talking about and that TFA will eventually (it could be ten years from now) come to the same conclusions that I have already, but it won’t be because they heard it from me, but because they finally figured it out for themselves.
So here’s what I think, and I invite any comments (even ones from people who disagree with me)
#1 Use some of the money to reward CMs who remain beyond the two year commitment
TFA does not do enough to encourage people to keep teaching after two years. Yet, it is the people who continued who made TFA the force that it is. Most third and fourth year CMs are among the top teachers in their school. With all the money that TFA invests into training and supporting CMs throughout the first two years, why not put some into retaining the teachers after they’ve finally figured out how to be great. Here’s my proposal: Every third year CM gets a $5,000 bonus. Every fourth year CM gets a $10,000 bonus. After that, you’re on your own, you greedy bastard.
#2 Enable every CM to have eighty hours of student teaching over the summer instead of twenty
The current model with the four person collaboratives is something that was formed back in 1994 when they were out of money and that was the best they can do with the limited enrollment. It was a compromise. It was not done because they had determined that twenty hours of student teaching was any sort of ideal number. More is better when it comes to getting that in-front-of-the-class experience. So why not find a way to get more students into the summer schools so every CM can get his or her own class. All you have to do is pay families a little to participate and you’d fill up as many classes as you need. If TFA is really serious about sending CMs into their teaching assignments as prepared as they can possibly be, I think this is one of the best ways of using the money.
#3 Create the ultimate on-line lesson bank / resource sharing website
Teachers spend a lot of time ‘reinventing the wheel.’ We can not easily find a well made, fully detailed, lesson plan on-line so we make them ourselves. When I think of all the thousands of lessons I’ve created and the millions that TFA CMs collectively make, I think that something that would really help benefit CMs and all teachers would be the ultimate lesson bank. I know they already have some kind of resource sharing thing. It’s not good enough or user-friendly enough. I submitted an awesome lesson on adding integers which included a game I invented. It was such a great lesson that I included it in my second book as an example of the perfect lesson. In two years the lesson has been downloaded only three times from the TFA site! I don’t know how the perfect lesson sharing bank might look, but it would be worth 5 million dollars to create it, I’m sure.
Well those are just a few of the ideas of what I’d use the money for if I were TFA. How much will they spend trying to figure out what best to do with the money while they can just get the answers from me for free right here?