Teach For America (TFA) is an organization that recruits recent college graduates to teach at public schools across the nation in an effort to improve low-income school systems. Last year 29 Boston College graduates joined the Corps. These numbers place BC in the ranks as one of the top contributors of volunteers from medium schools. Statistics are considered based on the number of accepted volunteers in proportion to the size of the school.
BC students are strongly encouraged to be men and women for others. The TFA recruiter for Boston College explained that she felt that this mentality was one of the reasons why so many BC grads volunteer to join the TFA Corps. She went on to explain that when applying for a volunteer position, they look for academic achievement and leadership experience, qualities that are far from uncommon among BC students.
Aside from playing an important role in positively changing the lives of American children, TFA volunteers receive a salary, health insurance, exclusive scholarships and benefits from graduate schools and employers as well as other benefits. Volunteers are also afforded the opportunity to gain experience as teachers regardless of whether or not that is their intended career path. Teachers form long-lasting bonds with their students and often return to visit as well as provide assistance with college applications. The Boston College TFA recruiter explained that “if you went to [the Teach for America] office and asked every single one of [the former teachers] when was the next time they were going to visit their kids, they could tell you the exact date.” This kind of lasting bond is only one example of the effects a Corps member can have on his or her students, demonstrating that though the position may only be a temporary one, the volunteers are committed to their work and their students. Furthermore, 60% of TFA alumni remain within the education system after completing two years in their community. It is this sort of dedication that will eventually effect change in our nation’s education system.
The Teach for America vision is that “one day, all children in this nation will have the opportunity to attain an excellent education.” One of the arguments against the organization is that it is a temporary fix that is actually slowing down the progression of American education. Critics point out that, rather than addressing the heart of the issue, TFA acts as a band-aid covering up a much larger wound. However, TFA has never claimed to be a permanent solution, it is simply providing assistance where it is needed, and according to a study done by Mathematica, students taught by TFA volunteers are improving and, in some cases, learning more than students taught by the control teachers. It is the goal of the TFA Corps, as well as many other educators, to fix our school systems and provide equal, public education to students nationwide. But until such a day, we need TFA volunteers.
As BC students, it is our responsibility to give back to our community. Each of us has been given the opportunity to learn and grow at a nationally recognized university, but there are countless students in this country that will never have that opportunity. Though there are many reasons as to why a student might not receive higher education, a lackluster elementary, middle, and high school education should not be one of them.
Information regarding the application process can be found here.
All images via Facebook/teachforamerica