That Cool TFA Article

A recent Atlantic Monthly article about Teach For America has gotten a ton of attention; many folks have sent me the link and asked for my impressions. It's excellent. Props to the author. So read it. Just 3 pages. So many good nuggets, I didn't want to clip 'em.

Then meet me back here.

* * *

Two thoughts.

1. First, TFA has been remarkably generous with us. Sharing books and websites they've created. Even their "internals" - the giant data sets they crunch to try to learn what works. A couple years ago they even asked us to comment on their own analysis.

We thought the data told a slightly different story than they did (that classroom management skills seemed to be the most correlated with their highest performers, contra their view). But set that aside for a sec. What orgs open themselves up to outside review like that? Are there any Ed Schools that share performance data on their alums with outsiders? Not to my knowledge.

Sometimes TFA gets burned providing access, like this story, where the researcher kind of twisted things around.

But in the long run, the organization is much better off for putting itself out there. How will our Ed School make sure we're just as open, inviting in people to rip us apart? Or will we wimp out once we're reasonably established?

2. "STEVEN FARR IS a tall man with a deep, quiet voice." Did you think the writer had a little crush on him? Maybe it was just me thinking that. Or maybe I've always wanted to be described as either tall, or deep-voiced, or quiet.

Anyway. Farr: tall, not so quiet, very sharp. I mentioned to Steve once that our training program is "directive." We tell trainees very specific moves, have them practice them over and over.

He wondered why.

"Is it because you like the training analogies (medicine is also directive)? Is it in response to teacher requests? Or is it just one of those 'You have to take some affirmative strategy so we select people who like that strategy?'"

I think it's mostly the latter. Certainly we put on our shingle: we're directive. "We don't have time for tons of theory," we tell trainees, "because you're gonna be in front of the kids next September. If you don't wants us telling you what to do, don't apply. The normal Ed School is far different, and almost entirely non-directive."

But that's not the only reason. Not only is most job training directive, most adult training for newbies at anything is that way. Tennis. Making risotto. Screenwriting. Piano. "Hold your fingers like this. No, like this. Again. Again softer."

So while I think every would-be rookie teacher should absolutely choose if they want to be trained in a directive program or a discovery-style program, if the choice were honestly made available, a ton would choose directive.

How about you?