Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Slice of Life, #4

             After days of sorting through receipts and documents last week and two hours today, my income taxes are filed! I went to H&R Block for the first time (long story), and my tax preparer was a former lawyer, a little heavyset, spotty gray mustache, wearing a green oxford shirt and striped tie of black, blue, and silver. He was chatty, too, becoming inquisitive when he saw our TIAA-CREF 1099-Rs, and asked where and what we’d taught. I explained my teaching saga – editing and journalism at NYU – and he inveighed against the poor writing of most young people today. But not his daughters, he hastened to add; they went to Brearley, which emphasized writing, so its students were at least adequate writers, and at best superior ones. Then he let me know that his younger daughter was in Turkey for her junior year and really loved the country, even though most tourists didn’t go there, preferring Paris or London. I chimed in that my daughter had gone to Turkey a few years ago and also loved it.
            Then he told me that his older daughter was in her second year of Teach for America in an inner-city school in St. Louis, and that now she understood how privileged she had been. The district she’d been assigned to had lost its accreditation, and in its reorganization, her high school had been designated college-prep STEM. But the school had no language teachers. Since she was a French teacher, she became the head of the language department of one, until the school hired an experienced Spanish teacher.
            His daughter isn’t going to make a career of teaching, but she’s become very interested in education policy, a trajectory too many Teach for America participants take. Does it really help schools that most need good, committed teachers to bring in recent college graduates for two years, then have them leave to be replaced by another cohort of two-year teachers? There is so much more I would have liked to know about this young woman’s experience, besides her learning that teaching is really hard. But my tax time was up and other clients were waiting.


  1. It is a shame that so many Teach for America kids are really teach for two years kids.How does this help our society in the long run?

  2. I think you must have the same tax preparer as me! Love how you wove us through your session, with just the right amount of detail.

  3. I so hear you on the Teach for America saga. I would love to know if that is a pattern or if those are just the ones we hear about?

  4. Anita, here's some data from a 2011 study:
    Nearly two-thirds (60.5%) of TFA teachers continue as public school teachers beyond their two-year commitment.
    More than half (56.4%) leave their initial placements in low-income schools after two years, but 43.6% stay longer.
    By their fifth year, 14.8% continue to teach in the same low-income schools to which they were originally assigned.

    That last one is the real problem. Here's the link to a report about the study:

  5. People are so funny, aren't they? I wonder if he works his daughters into every tax preparation session, or if it was just for you, because you teach : )

  6. How did I miss that you were in the SOL challenge this year?

    I think a lot about TFA, too. I have friends who've gone through this program. Their stats are just a little bit better than the ones you list, about a quarter of them are still in their original schools 5 years later. One stat I'd like to see added -- because this is the reason a few of my friends "left" their original school -- how many people changed schools because their original school closed?