TFA: Sharing the burden

In addition to the four outstanding teachers whose blogs are resident here on our Teacher Leaders Network website (Bill FerriterNancy Flanagan, Renee Moore and Ariel Sacks), we support — through our partnership with Editorial Projects in Education — two other TLN member-bloggers at the Teacher Magazine website — Anthony Cody and Susan Graham. This six-teacher combo covers an amazing expanse of teaching experience, across three generations of educators, and in settings as diverse as inner-city Oakland CA, the rural Mississippi “Black Belt,” metropolitan Brooklyn NY, labor-minded Michigan, the Research Triangle of North Carolina and the D.C. suburbs.

Cody and Graham, both experienced and widely respected National Board Certified teachers, share blogging space at Teacher Magazine with a savory selection of fellow education pundits, including young Jessica Shyu, a former Teach for America teacher who now works as a TFA coach based in the District of Columbia.

For the most part, the TM bloggers do their own thing — one doesn’t often see back-and-forth commentary among them. This week is an exception. In her blog A Place at the Table, Susan Graham politely objects to Shyu’s description (quoting a colleague) of a vast group of teacher union members as people who “did not serve the children and families who paid their salaries.” In her post, Shyu shared a poem by TFA alum MenSa Ankh Maa, delivered during an August TFA training in D.C., which ends: “Today we act on our faith and put much of the world on our backs.”

In her wise commentary, Graham calls for more unity among those teachers (traditional entry, TFA, or otherwise) who share a deep commitment to educating all children well. While Shyu and her colleagues might agree with such a call, it seems clear that they imagine the community of committed teachers as quite a bit smaller (and perhaps younger) than 26-year veteran Susan Graham does.

One thing my six years of work with the Teacher Leaders Network has taught me: There are highly accomplished and committed teachers in abundance in every public school system in America. And thank goodness for that. Because — as committed to educational equity and school reform as TFA’ers unquestionably are — the TFA workforce accounts for less than one percent of the 3.2 million public schoolteachers in America.

To realize their dream of an excellent education for all, the TFA’ers will need many allies. Perhaps, as their movement matures, they will come to see that. And begin to look around them.

— john norton

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