I have to admit that I have not been a big fan of Teach for America. Like many educators, I thought it seemed logical that we should all want highly trained professionals teaching our children, just like we would want an extensively trained and certified doctor, or lawyer, or even accountant. I also didn’t think that a revolving door of placing virtually untrained teachers in classrooms for only two years was a model that would lead to the ongoing improvement of our education system. I had a recent experience, however, that challenged these beliefs.
I recently visited several schools in a large urban district. Looking into classroom after classroom I recognized the common practices I have seen in nearly all secondary schools I have ever visited. Students were sitting in rows, with the teacher providing direct instruction, sometimes with the aid of a whiteboard, or an overhead projector. I recent years I have visited schools that are adopting technology, so the whiteboard and overhead projector have been replaced by an interactive whiteboard and a document camera.
The difficult part of these visits is watching the disengagement of the students. My daughter, Sophia, has come home from school several times this year with a perfect example of this disengagement. “I fell asleep in science class, again, today.” Sophia’s science class is right after lunch. The teacher turns off the lights and lectures from a PowerPoint presentation for the full class period several times per week. “I have been trying my best to take notes while he is talking, but I keep falling asleep without even knowing it,” she laments.
Michael Gielniak, Ph.D.
Chief Operating Officer