Date of Award

5-2012

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Major

English

Major Professor

Michael L. Keene

Committee Members

Russel Hirst, Kirsten Benson

Abstract

In 1989, Princeton University senior Wendy Kopp conceived the idea of a national teacher corps that would place the brightest young people in the schools that were the most difficult to staff. This idea, which became Teach For America (TFA), took life in 1990, and has since become a powerful force in the public education reform movement. TFA consistently attracts college graduates from the nation’s top universities, and with the funding it receives from private donors as well as the federal government, the organization recruits and trains these individuals who commit to teach in the country’s highest-needs public schools. Critics of Teach For America, including the National Education Association (NEA) and scholar Linda Darling-Hammond—whose 1994 critique of TFA nearly destroyed the organization, argue that TFA poses a threat to the future of public education because it places the most inexperienced teachers in the country’s most struggling schools. While politicians, CEOs, prominent educators, teachers unions, and celebrities engage in debates on whether TFA teachers have a positive or negative impact on students, the voices of Teach For America teachers themselves have been largely left out of this conversation. This study identifies their attitudes, concerns, and anxieties about teaching by analyzing the blogs of fifteen different TFA teachers on the Teach For Us blogging network. It found that Teach For America teachers felt unprepared for the work of teaching, the culture of the schools where they were placed, and the academic level of their students, yet maintained an optimistic attitude in spite of these feelings.

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