My quest to Teach for America

I like to think I'm not a whiny college-age girl who laments the trials of her life that are really not that bad. I find myself listening to my peers when they talk about how gross their hair looks, how unfair a teacher is for giving them a bad grade (even though they didn't study), or how cruel their parents are for not giving them as big of an allowance this month after they broke a rule.

I like to think I'm not like that when I say that applying to Teach for America is intense. But I think it's probably one of the most difficult things I've attempted. And maybe not in a bad way.

Do you know what Teach For America is? It's the national corps in which college graduates are trained for literally a summer before getting sent to some underserved school within the country to try to boost test scores, inspire and work to decrease the educational gap between high-income and low-income students. You can have any major just so long as you possess the seven main qualities the program feels corps members should have, including organizational ability, the capacity to motivate and inspire, determination to work relentlessly and the belief that everyone should have equal opportunities in education.

I think I have all of the seven qualities. But that's totally up to them to judge.

So I'm positive this is something I want to do. I am totally into this. This seems like a great way to start my post-college life and work up to my ultimate goal of helping others.

And now to begin the application process.

Initally it's not too bad. An essay, your resume, a letter of intent, recommendations, answering some questions online and you're golden. If they like you after this brief weeklong (or so) period of deliberation, they invite you to a 30-minute phone interview.

I was pretty nervous about the interview, I must say. I'm not known for being eloquent. But it went well with my interviewer asking questions about my resume and about two articles we were required to read and also asking about myself and my interest in the program.

The worst part after interviews is seeing if they approve of what they saw. I checked my e-mail on the indicated date at least 10 times before I got the message saying that they still liked me enough to invite me to a final interview.

Yeesh. My first shot at a real job.

I've attended so many interview and resume workshops that I should feel ok, but with these people I don't know what to expect.

Everyone in the core is exemplary. Usually I'm used to being near the top, a hard worker with good ethics and habits. Unfortunately, however, EVERYONE applying at this point is like that.

What would make me special enough to get hired? I feel my saving grace is that Teach For America wants to hire as many people as possible and the hiring process isn't really a competition. (I'm not very good at competing anyway.)

I guess all I can do is keep it simple, work hard, concentrate and be myself.

For the final interview I have to present a five-minute sort of mock lesson to the other 11 or so interviewees and two interviewers. Throughout the day we participate in group activities and discussions before we are interviewed one-on-two.

Excited/nervous!

Post-final interview update!

It's been a bit since I started this hub, but I just had my final interview a few days ago and my feelings are mixed... I feel as though I did sufficiently, but I still have that same feeling of not knowing exactly what they want and if I have it, much less actually showed that I have it. I find out in a few days how I did in their eyes.

Personally I worried a lot about dressing for the interview. I had never been to a real interview like that before and was concerned I would be underdressed (I didn't have a jacket and I forgot my pants at San Luis Obispo... I realized this halfway to the interview in San Jose). However, one woman at the interview wore a long-sleeve cotton shirt and khakis... ouch for her.

I was surprised that so many people arrived late. I was the first one there... hopefully I seemed eager and not like a suckass.

My mock lesson was all right. I read up a lot on classroom management and planned on doing a lot more than I actually did (like ask specific students for answers or guesses... that keeps the class attentive and helps ensure they're actually learning). I didn't do terribly, however... no one did. I knew my stuff about sentence structure and didn't fail on that, but I did sort of stammer at one point and didn't hand out my worksheets as early as I hoped.

There were definitely a few who shined and seemed extremely comfortable at the front. I was probably not one of them... haha!

The group activities were better... I felt like I contributed sufficiently and didn't hog the stage. I also felt good that I got my better ideas across and that the interviewers could hear.

At the break I spoke with the other applicants, who were very kind and bright (two were from Stanford, one from USC, one from Saint Mary's, the others from UCs... I was the only one from state school -_-*).

Thankfully my interviewers were kind. They were very passionate about Teach For America, very knowledgeable and friendly. They had both participated in the program and are still involved in different ways.

The next activity was problem solving. We were given some numbers of six schools, three with high attendance and three without, and some of their features and characteristics. From those we had to determine which were the distinguishing factors of the schools with high attendance, explain the factors and how they would affect attendance, and what could be done to increase attendance numbers. That went fine; we only had 30 minutes and I wrote like a mad woman. I hope I was coherent enough. I'm afraid my frantic writing wasn't scholarly enough.

Finally came the personal interviews. Each of the two interviewers took four of us and we each had to sign up for a slot. I chose the last because I had the closest drive home (I was staying with a friend in San Jose). It was 35 minutes late, already three hours later or so, but that was when I felt I did best. It was just me the way I am, honest and relaxed. I do best with people on a one-on-one basis; I am pretty comfortable, plus all the questions were about me. I had to do a role play as a teacher talking to an administrator and felt I did fine. I was also given a couple of scenarios and had to explain how I would handle them. But I think her other questions about me and my intentions were most effective and showed why I was there and what I had to offer.

We'll see how I did later... eek! Wish me luck!

So...

I didn't get the job. Whoops.

But I listen to what my mom said: At least I did the best I could.

I don't know how any of the others that were interviewed with me did.

The one thing that consoled me was my counselor, who tried to help me with my interview. I asked her later if she knew anyone who actually was accepted into the program and she said yes, but that the Teach For America application and interview process is so bizarre that she knows of people who were accepted without even being interviewed and others whom she was amazed made the cut.

What can you do? I'm applying for newspaper jobs now :)

Another update...

Wow. Now that I'm working in the education field through AmeriCorps, I can see that I really had no idea what I was doing in my Teach for America interview. I may be good at interviewing, and I may have had a great resume, but man, I didn't know the first thing about lesson plans and other areas in education. I cringe when I think about how my lesson went during my final interview. When I look back, I see that I didn't really do anything right. Now wonder they didn't pick me! But then, I didn't know much about teaching because I guess I wasn't that passionate about it, and I had no training in creating lesson plans and curriculum. I like being involved in education, but I am no teacher, that's for sure.

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Comments 44 comments

lisa  8 years ago

im going through the TFA process right now! if this is old, i would love to hear how your final interview turned out... mine is in a week. if you're still in the process good luck! im totally nervous but secretly excited. hope it turns out well for you!!


Ashley 8 years ago

I would just like to say that I absolutely appreciate your helpful information and wisdom. I am also inspired by your positive attitude and overall outlook. I am about to embark upon the final interview and I found your post to be very inspiring and benefiical. I am sorry to hear that you did not make the final cut but it seems you posess all the qualities needed to be successful in whatever you choose to do. Thank you.


Michael 7 years ago

thanks


roastedpinebark profile image

roastedpinebark 7 years ago from Iowa

hey, good luck at becoming a teacher


Zach 7 years ago

Quick question. What do you write about in your essay? I a news reporter interested in going into teaching, and this is one of the hardest writing 'assignments' I have ever done. Writing about myself is one the hardest topics for me to conquer.

If you have a little sample of what you wrote, visit my website and send me an email--www.ZachLewisOnline.com.

Thank you for all your help,

Zach


glassvisage profile image

glassvisage 7 years ago from Northern California Author

Thanks for stopping by everyone! Zach, I actually still have my essay from the application process, and I looked back and saw that I wrote about a challenging experience I had at work, and how I overcame it. You should definitely think back on your experiences because they will ask you about them again and again! Good luck!


DR 7 years ago

I have the final interview with TFA this coming Wednesday and was wondering if you could give me a few more pointers since you have a lot of insight. I would really appreciate an email. You can email me at destinr@gmail.com. Can't wait to hear from you.


Hypno Bob profile image

Hypno Bob 7 years ago

Thanks for sharing your experiences. Very interesting also that in the end, you figured out that you actually DON'T want to teach.


Ashley Joy profile image

Ashley Joy 7 years ago

Being a teacher is a huge job that does not always get the respect it deserves. But thank you for caring about the future of our children.


AshleyVictoria profile image

AshleyVictoria 7 years ago from Los Angeles

glassvisage - I'm just stumbling across this hub for the first time. What a great timeline you've got up there - way to keep your hub fans informed! It seems like not getting the TFA job wasn't the worst thing that could've happened for you. I'm currently applying to grad schools to get my masters in education, and the application process has been making me so nervous!


Jennifer 7 years ago

Hi! I'm applying to Teach For America now, and I found this really helpful! Did you get a choice at all as to which date to have your final interview? And about from what time to what time was the interview, if you remember? I chose the final interview dates that had the least amount of conflicts for me, but I still have some conflicts with a couple of the days, and I'm a bit worried!


glassvisage profile image

glassvisage 7 years ago from Northern California Author

Thank you all for your comments and experiences!

Jennifer, good questions. From what I remember, I got to choose where to go for my interview and which date, which was convenient. The interviews were long... around four hours or so, maybe from 8 or 9 to 12 or 1. Good luck!


magdielqr profile image

magdielqr 6 years ago

This is good stuff. Thanks.


hubygiku 6 years ago

Hey glassvisage,

You've had so many comments on this hub! I'm so glad that you posted this hub, it's been super helpful.

I have my TFA interview coming up in a couple weeks and I'm wondering if you'd be willing to expound upon what went wrong with your lesson plan--you mentioned that after being involved in Americorps you realized that your lesson plan didn't go as well as you originally thought it did. If you're up for it, I'd love to talk more with you about your lesson plan. I'm a bit nervous about mine and would love your opinion. My email is hubygiku@juno.com if you wouldn't mind emailing me. If my email didn't come through for some reason it's hubygiku at juno dot com. Thanks, I hope to hear from you.


Erika 6 years ago

Hello,

Also interviewing with TFA, and thank you so much for sharing. One question I have, did they ask you after your 5 min. lesson to explain it in any way? What do they ask you regarding lesson planning?


seminars 6 years ago

very useful


mpurcell10 profile image

mpurcell10 6 years ago from Arkansas

This has to be one of the best jobs ever.I wish you the best.


WildIris 6 years ago

What an amazing story. Thanks for sharing and updating your initial story.


Judi 6 years ago

Congrats on your heart, courage and candor! How did you connect up with AmeriCorps, and can you share more about that? I am a midlife career changer from a state school. I definitely don't fit the profile, but I know I will arrive where I need to be to fulfill my purpose.


glassvisage profile image

glassvisage 6 years ago from Northern California Author

Judi, there are AmeriCorps opportunities for people of all backgrounds and stages of life. You should check it out! americorps.gov... That's where I found my job!


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gmgroups 5 years ago

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sher 5 years ago

Hi, thank you so much for posting this. I completely agree with everyone else that its very helpful and inspiring to read. i also am wondering what you think went wrong in your interview. If you'd be willing to share, you can email me at Shereenist@yahoo.com. I'd really really love to hear about it because I am also a little nervous about my lesson plan. Thank you! Sincerely, S


article_eric profile image

article_eric 5 years ago from Seattle, WA

"try and boost test scores, inspire and work to decrease the educational gap between high-income and low-income students"....

LOVE THIS! I always say that education is where everything starts and ends. The question always centered around quality teachers who truly wanted to teach in less affluent and even "not so great" areas. This is where the educational system needs to thrive in order to make a long term difference, and I think Teacher for America is right on the mark.

Really sorry you didn't get the job, but it sounds like it was an excellent learning experience for you. And hey... mom is always right!


glassvisage profile image

glassvisage 5 years ago from Northern California Author

Thank you all for your comments!


Sherry D 5 years ago

TFA is a big scam. They lie about data. They have been caught several times showing false value added gains. They have also been audited for issues with the books and accounting. The founder of Teach for America makes almost a million per year. She trolls around the country knocking down hardworking existing teachers. She then puts in people who have five weeks of training and gives herself a big commision check for it. The reality is that most TFA teachers are not all that good. They think they are fantastice. But they are not.

There are lots of ways to help people. TFA is NOT one of them.


Rachel G 5 years ago

Sherry D that is completely unfair. I think that the people who apply to Teach For America have the best intentions to do everything they can to educate our youth, and they have nothing to do with TFA administration or their bookkeeping.


incomeguru profile image

incomeguru 5 years ago from Lagos

To me "Teach For America" is of course a great idea to balance the educational inequalities if they could sustain the modalities involved.


hameed 5 years ago

hello to all out standing i like comments


UHZAID 5 years ago

way to stay positive and gluck with everything! I'm also applying to TFA. Just finished my phone interview about an hour ago!! I would love if you could give me some pointers on the the lesson plan...zaidksiddiqui@gmail.com...


Jeff 4 years ago

I went through the whole process and didn't get in. If you aren't accepted it could be a million reasons, not just how you did.


Jess 4 years ago

I just got my acceptance letter to TFA two days ago and cannot be more excited! I really think I didn't do that great on my lesson plan, but I really shined on my interview! I will be in the Metro-Atlana area and although I do not know anyone there, I cannot wait to start. The mission of TFA is aligned with my passion for education equality!


glassvisage profile image

glassvisage 4 years ago from Northern California Author

Congrats Jess! I can tell you are very passionate about this and you'll do wonderful!


Michelle 4 years ago

I am currently in the process of applying for the TFA program. I would greatly appreciate any pointers on application submission. I just came across the website and really would love to apply for it. I can be contacted at themrs@gmail.com Thanks in advance for your help.


guestq 4 years ago

You've got a lot of really great information here and I'd love to hear more about it if you're not too tired of explaining your lesson plan. my email is edisonzangel@hotmail.com thanks!


iamageniuster profile image

iamageniuster 4 years ago

Good luck! I wanted to do it when I was about to graduate college too.


freemarketingnow profile image

freemarketingnow 4 years ago from California

I did TFA in 2005, and I enjoyed my time working with the organization. TFA made education sexy so that people that would never consider teaching actually put serious thought into applying. Also, I think they're right in promoting their alums to explore other fields such as law and medicine. We need people in those professions to solve this injustice of education quality being determined by zip code. Feel free to visit any of my hubs to pick up on some of the key lessons I've learned so far from teaching and from leading a school.


hectordang profile image

hectordang 4 years ago from New York

I'm glad you found AmeriCorps and it's working out for you. TFA has a hard interview process, and it's the right program for everyone.


drea 3 years ago

They give no explanation of why they turn you down. Long process to get to even an interview I think it's just to much hipe. They should be happy that people really want to help , they shouldn't turn people away. Very disappointed I DO NOT RECOMMEND IT TO ANYONE , IT'S JUST ANOTHER BIG CORPORATION where INDIVIDUALISM AND A PERSON JUST CAN GET LOST.

Little help offered during the whole interview process and when I asked for it they said they help but in an email they turn down the offer.


David 3 years ago

There is a lot of misconception regarding 'the right person' for a TFA position. They're sending young people off to be a good influence on children in impoverished areas-- which mean's they're basically sending you to a little day-time juvenile prison with an inordinate number of degenerate children, hoping you can show them that life can offer them more than what they know or realize.

The schools themselves are your enemy. They're probably staffed full 'teachers' who have been doing their awful shit job for too long, and are probably too preoccupied with things like 'teaching goals' and 'achieving test standards' than really delivering a meaningful, quality education.

Judging from your writing, you're simply not of the character or temperament to really succeed in TFA. The content of your blog was empty and meaningless. You'd probably be better suited being a 'standard' teacher, who might excel at delivering mindless lesson plans and drilling redundant facts into their students, than really inspiring them to be better people.

Food for thought: the ideal candidate doesn't actually want to go through with it-- and TFA would be lucky if the best candidates actually stuck around for the 2-year commitment.

and, PS, "However, one woman at the interview wore a long-sleeve cotton shirt and khakis... ouch for her." (???? you suck ???)


Courtney Leah profile image

Courtney Leah 3 years ago from Atlanta, GA

David, that was kind of mean to say someone's writing is meaningless. This girl is a hard worker, and that is a total insult for you to say that. I'm just saying


glassvisage profile image

glassvisage 3 years ago from Northern California Author

Don't worry Courtney, posts like David's just reinforce to me why some people love the Internet - it's a great opportunity to judge people they don't know and vent :) I'm happy to bear the brunt of that if it makes their day better


Beth 2 years ago

Hey, your last comment was awesome... good for you!

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