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Making Teaching A Career, Not A Drive-By Charity Stop

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Over at Teacher In A Strange Land, teacher Nancy Flanagan riffs off of my Teach For America essay from last week. "TFA has done nothing to re-conceptualize the work of teaching as both socially valuable and complex professional practice. In fact, TFA and similar “fellowship” programs have spawned a rash of research projects bent on proving that teacher education isn’t particularly useful—that any smart person can teach." But, like me, Flanagan agrees that the potential is there: "When Wendy Kopp comes up with an idea to keep TFA folks in teaching or reposition teaching as a flexible, entrepreneurial professional career, I personally will carry signs nominating her for a MacArthur grant—or Secretary of Education."

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To me, the major reasons for recent grads to enter TFA is two fold. One, they earn a halo to put on their resume, two they have a guaranteed position when they get out with major players in the nation's economy. Many people would like to do good things and earn that halo. Many more would like to earn the salary package and prestige that comes with working for a major corporation. I can't help but wonder if teaching were able to offer one of the two, prestige or money, if it would be effective at getting bright young minds to stay in teaching. Or maybe it really needs to offer both.

What if these major corporations where able to hire these BYMs but leave them in the classrooms as sort of a charity position? After all, how much good is yet another BYM going to do for a multi-billion dollar company compared to the good it will do for 25 kids?

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