Thursday, July 19, 2007

Teach for (minority kids- crack babies - blackies - negroes - oppressed - disenfranchized - "spics" - Colored Folks - darkies - those people) America

So, I'm sitting on the subway and of course there are fliers everywhere. One catches my eye which says something along the lines of "Do you remember your first grade teachers name? Have someone remember yours." How sweet, right? Not exactly.

I'm wondering what kind of people this program attracts. Probably white women from out of town trying to "help" out right?


Minnesota anyone? How about Kentucky, or what about Missouri? It’s all the same deal. White people coming to marginalized communities and “giving” back. Shall we call it White guilt anyone? Or can we mistake it for passion?

Some would find this noble, hey even the famed Jackie Kennedy took a pay cut to fulfill her passion, at an astounding rate of $10,000 a year she worked for a small business on the Upper East Side. What a good heart she had.

But I digress.

And what’s more, these fliers on the subway say no experience is necessary. Would you look at that, our children pushed to the bottom, they hafta (yes, I said hafta, it might be a product of my –lack of- education) beg people to come help out. What a shame.

So a friend working at an internship in Harlem working with six year olds had a story for me. On her first day the teacher (who was an older white woman) was leading the class, and introduced all thirty something kids in the room, four were announced as “CB’s”.

What’s a CB you may ask? It’s short for Crack Baby. Their names were not mentioned, solely CB and a handful of other students with other “symptoms” such as DS, come on we can all guess that one, down syndrome. It’s awful right? What kind of system are these children living and working in, if they’re not known for their names or their personalities but only their “defaults” or “syndromes”? What kind of teachers care for them, if they’re not interested in helping them, but rather merely putting up with them? And how are we training these new inexperienced teachers, who know close to nothing about who we are, or where we come from, and all they have to go off of is our symptoms and not our strengths.

I have another friend who works in real estate, and all day long she’s been servicing these people. With questions like, “Is this a safe neighborhood?” “Are there gangs around here?” “Is the subway safe at night?” Well how are we supposed to answer you? Yes, you want to pay under $1500 a month, you get what you pay for. Brown people! Us, the ones you fear which ironically, are also the ones you strive to help. The ones you can “make a difference for” so you can look at the mirror and feel proud that you can look past race, that you miraculously, don’t see color. (As if any Black or Brown person will ever believe that bullshit).

So tell me, Teachers for America, or whatever you decide to call yourselves. The organization that puts inexperienced people, mostly white and thus privileged into the schools that most “sane” teachers run desperately away from. What do you suppose you’ll accomplish? The funneling of Blacks into prison that much quicker?


Black students + White teachers does not = Integration.

But hell you can prove me wrong all you want, I’ll embrace it. I’m just more than a little weary of the hands we’re putting our children in.


Gee said...

Teach for America has always given me the chills, especially as an education student in my undergrad years.

The organization recruits desperate students by offering a chance to save the world right after college, no experience needed. After it's two-week training program it places people into communities where they have no knowledge of the the languages, the people, their relations with one-another, etc, etc.

It is a bandaid that causes more harm to our educational system--on top of adding insult to amazing education programs that thoroughly train people for the world of education.

kg said...

I'm definately not impressed with Teach For America, i personally dont like it as an organization. However, New York City Teaching Fellows is quite a different program. It has the potential to be a positive program because the New York City Department of Edudation through its fellows program offers a Subsidized Masters program. AND I AM ALL FOR THE STATE PAYING FOR MY DEGREE.

Growing up in Oakland public schools, working for a school in the fruitvale, i met many of these Teach For America teachers who i could not come to respect or appreciate, however, i met a few that were amazing teachers. The problem is, many teachers use teach for america, and what it deams at "inner city" or "urban" schools as a stepping stone to the suburbs. I have yet to meet a new york city teaching fellow, but i am very curious about who they are, and if they are successful in actual teaching with kids...

Kevin said...

Having seen many friends try their hand at Teach for America and fail, I wouldn't recommend the program, citing their inability to adequately prepare the young teachers.

Teach for America's objective is to produce advocates for educational reform, not a new generation of teachers. When I first interviewed with the organization, when I expressed interest in continuing teaching after the two years, I was explicitly told that was not their goal. They pick elite students who will go on to "better" things in life, (CEOs, politicians, lawyers, etc) who can use their status to donate money and change policy on education. I suppose the assumption is that after dumping these young adults in poor situations, they'll see firsthand how badly our public schools need change and champion reform later in life. It's a flawed objective, but there are worse causes.

These teachers never properly develop the skills, which can only come from experience. By the time they might start getting the swing of it, they're let go, to move on to easier professions where they earn more money and respect.

If we want a system that's going to work, we should be putting these new teachers in higher-achieving school settings for them to get their feet wet and cycle the more experienced teachers to the lower performing areas to help at-risk kids. Good luck convincing anyone to institute such a plan, however.