A few weeks ago, TFA launched their own blog site called ‘pass the chalk.’ It was described as a way for the TFA community to express our diverse opinions on thought provoking topics.
I wrote that I was skeptical that this would happen, and the first few posts were an early confirmation of my suspicion.
Now there have been around 20 posts and it is becoming pretty clear that this blog is not meeting my expectations for it.
There has been little of anything ‘controversial’ in any way. The latest post was about how one school in Chicago is sprucing up their building as a way of improving the learning environment. The Friday Five was written by a high school senior.
This post about whether you would want your child taught by a TFA teachers had a chance to explore some issues, except that the answer was: Yes (as long as it is a TFA alumni). Well, of course. But what about a brand new TFAer with 5 weeks of training? I know that I would have no problem with my kids being taught by even a second year TFAer, but I would definitely pull my kids from the class of a new TFAer. And many charter schools don’t allow their students to be taught by new TFAers either, so it is certainly something that could have been interesting, but ended up being the same old PR, avoiding the real issues.
A place that would have made for a good ‘point / counterpoint’ would have been this story about what is going on in Tennessee. Instead we get the PR about how great the new evaluation system is working, despite all the controversy around it. Of course there is a big reference to Duncan’s announcement that Tennessee has achieved a one year miracle, with respect to test scores.
Today there was actually an interview with Adam Geller, who created teachforus.org. I’ve communicated with Adam a bunch of times, mostly with regard to technical issues with the blog site and he as been very helpful. Teachforus.org is a great place to blog, and sometimes I worry that I may have ‘sabotaged’ the site with all my constructive criticism. I don’t have official numbers, but I think that about 90% of the visitors to this site are visits to my posts. My post ‘Why I did TFA and why you shouldn’t‘ got over 30,000 views, which is probably more than all the other posts by all the other bloggers put together over the past six months. That is not to say that the other bloggers aren’t doing a great job. I think they are, but it is just a fact that the majority of visits to this site are for my blog.
He was asked a question:
Corps members and alums have been posting on TFUs for six years! Have you seen any changes in the tone and content of the posts from 2006 to now? What makes the posts on TFUs so affecting and powerful?
Geller: In some ways, I don’t think Teach For Us has changed much in its content. It’s always been a place for open and honest sharing about the realities of the Teach For America experience. It’s all the good and all the bad all in one place.
I think the word “raw” feels a bit cliché, but I think it’s accurate. Teach For Us has a quality of realness and authenticity because it is truly a place for the voice of one person and his or her individual story.
I don’t know that it would have been good to mention me, personally, in this answer, but of course the tone on this site changed since 2006. In my early posts, up until early 2011, I was just writing teaching advice. Then for the past year and a half I’ve been really trying to write about the bigger issues and since there aren’t a lot of people blogging right now (I wish there were more), when my tone changed, the tone of teachforus.org as a whole changed. So I’m disappointed that Geller evaded the question. He could have said that yes, the tone has changed, but a minority of vocal critics doesn’t mean that more alumni are critical, or something like that. I don’t know if teachforus.org generates any profits based on site traffic, but if it does, Geller should be very happy that I choose to blog here. I once even set up a mirror blog a few months ago on the wordpress.com site, but I don’t know how to automatically update it with the new posts.
To tell you the truth, the ‘Pass The Chalk’ so far is so boring and vapid that I have trouble getting through the articles, despite always looking for good material for my own blog. If I can’t even muster up enough energy to read these few blog entries, I seriously doubt that ‘Pass The Chalk’ is getting any traffic at all.
I can’t promise that I will continue doing these roundups, but if I see something compelling on ‘Pass The Chalk’ I’ll let everyone know.