Synopses & Reviews
The Teach for America program recruits high-performing recent collegegraduates as new teachers to “turn around” low-income, largely minority inner-city schools. It has been idolized and criticized. Theauthor of this book holds a Master of Science in Education and is a former TFA instructor. She decided to look at TFA by measuring thesuccess of its teachers. She surveyed her TFA cohort in the Greater Philadelphia region and used the results to develop this book. Itdocuments a basic problem with the story of education TFA tells recruits: if impossible problems can be solved by inexperienced youngpeople on their own if they simply work hard enough and have discipline, then when impossible problems prove impossible for oneinexperienced young person to solve, they will believe the only real problem is them. This is a serious critique of the student experienceof “bootstrap” education reform, but the author keeps her analysis to the teacher's role. Matsui documents the fatigue, shame, burnout,isolation, alcoholism, depression, and trauma of young teachers in her cohort, and records alternative stories in which no amount ofteacher hard work and discipline makes children have similar grades as their counterparts in neighborhoods and schools that arewealthier, whiter, less crowded, safer, and better served. She concludes that TFA and similar education reform programs currentlydepend on widespread unrealistic superhero romances about what teaching is. Belief in these stories makes teachers personallyresponsible for problems they cannot solve, and isolates and deprofessionalizes teachers in America. More realistic stories aboutteaching, Matsui concludes, are more hopeful; they do more practical good for students, teachers, and society.Annotation ©2015 Ringgold, Inc., Portland, OR (protoview.com)
Grounded in the belief that hope comes from a place of reality, not necessarily popular ideology, this book explores the gap between designated and actual narratives within Teach For America. TFA founder Wendy Kopp stated that there is nothing elusive about successful teaching; people simply need to work hard and be disciplined. Taking an inquiry stance, Sarah Matsui surveyed and interviewed 26 of her fellow corps members in the Greater Philadelphia region. Their counternarratives collectively problematize this standard reform rhetoric. Many are working hard, yet their stories and challenges are complex, elusive, and commonly self-described with the words shame, failure, and isolating. Corps members reported experiencing new levels of fatigue, alcohol dependency, depression, and trauma during their two-year service commitment with TFA. Learning from Counternarratives in Teach For America utilizes multiple frameworks to analyze the depth and range of corps members' experiences. Relevant to helping professionals and people working to address constructed systems of inequity, this book ultimately advocates for a more honest, contextualized, and egalitarian approach to reform - one that openly addresses both individual and systemic realities.