Joining The Teach for America 2010 Corps

I got the following email this Tuesday:

I am pleased to extend you an offer to join the Teach For America 2010 corps! This offer to join Teach For America reflects your outstanding accomplishments, leadership potential, and commitment to expanding educational opportunities for children in low-income communities.

Effecting dramatic, measurable gains in students’ academic achievement is an incredibly challenging pursuit given the obstacles facing students and teachers in our nation’s lowest income communities. You have demonstrated great potential to excel as a teacher despite these challenges and to ultimately assume great influence in our country. We now invite you to make this commitment and take our effort forward.

I hadn’t talked about applying to TFA before, because I honestly didn’t think I would get in. It’s a selective process, and the interview was the toughest I’d ever experienced. I spent a lot of time preparing for it, though, and I guess it paid off.

For anyone thinking of applying, a couple tips for the process:

  • Know the organization’s mission and values. Read the website, talk to people in the corps, and figure out how you and your resume connect to their core philosophy.
  • Quantify everything you accomplish, and know the numbers by heart. The one-on-one interview is intense; anything on your resume is fair game for a grilling.
  • Sell yourself hard. Be confident. Smile. My intuition is that your performance and composure in the mock-teaching and interview exercises is treated as a proxy for your performance in a classroom where not everything is under your control.

If you make it through the admissions process, they’ll take care of you. I got a congratulatory call from both the Lewis and Clark recruiter, and also from a Bay Area program director (one of the guys at my interview session, actually). They have an alumni network that helps you find things to do once the program is over, and supposedly cluster teachers so that you have a support network on-site or close by.

I’ll be spending the next two years teaching 6-12th grade Mathematics somewhere in the Bay Area. I need to take a few basic credentialing tests over the next semester, then begin their training institute at the end of next June (about a month and a half after I graduate).

I’m feeling a mix of different things right now. I’m excited to work with an organization this cool, wondering whether I’ll be able to handle the pressure there, and enjoying the peace of having secured post-college employment before the end of Fall semester. I’m a little sad about the opportunities I’m giving up- I won’t be returning to Japan or doing any other long-term travel for a while- but the world will still be around when I’m 24, and hopefully I can take some cool trips over my summers. Overall, though, I think this will keep me challenged and focused, and let me feel that I’ve done something positive with the energy and and experience I’ve built up over my college career.

Portland folk- let’s make the most of this last six months. Japan folk- I’ll definitely be back at some point, just don’t know when yet. Bay folk- incoming!

p.s. If you’re thinking of applying, do it! The initial part isn’t too hard, and by the time you’ve been through the phone and/or in-person interviews, you will have a very strong opinion about whether or not this program is for you.