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NYTimes Admires TFA Would-Be Bankers



The NYTimes recently ran an article admiring the “sacrifices” Teach For America (TFA) teachers who defer careers on Wall Street make, and I’m feeling snarky…

Teach for America also became a sought-after option for students like Eric Rodriguez, who was a senior at Harvard when the financial crisis hit. Mr. Rodriguez had completed two internships at Lehman Brothers and was fully expecting to work at the firm after he graduated. But as he started his senior year in September 2008, Lehman Brothers collapsed and Wall Street was in a free fall.

The real victims of the recession: Harvard students.  Poor Eric had to become a temporary teacher instead of working for Lehman Brothers! 

“At Harvard, they harass you: ‘I’m going to be at this place, come meet me,’ ” he said. “It wasn’t until I was desperate that I said ‘I’ll check this out and speak to this person.’ ” In 2009, Mr. Rodriguez joined Teach for America and taught in an elementary school in San Francisco for two years. Afterward, he landed a job at Facebook in its user operations department.

Yeah, because teaching is for the “desperate.”  Also, the fact that he “traded in” his teaching position for a job at Facebook illustrates so many of the problems with TFA.

“It wouldn’t have the same appeal if it were for a longer period of time,” said Kaitlin Gastrock, a spokeswoman for Teach for America. “Two years is a reasonable ask to make of folks who are just finishing up their college experience.”

No, I don’t think two years is reasonable.  Teaching is a CAREER, not a post-college experience.

Teach for America participants receive the same starting salary as first-year teachers in their districts, which is about $25,500 to $51,000 a year. That pales in comparisons to the six-figure salary and bonus structures that many elite college graduates can expect in finance.

I’m not going to applaud some 22-year-old for sacrificing himself for what I consider still a lot of money.  Maybe this should lead to questions about why recent college graduates CAN even expect six-figure salaries in finance, while lifelong teachers cannot…?

Ross Peyser, a 2011 graduate of Cornell and a second-year teacher in New Orleans, was once an intern at Oliver Wyman, a financial services consulting firm. As a teacher, he still plays the role of data analyst, creating Excel spreadsheets to diagnose his students’ learning needs.  At the end of day, he administers a five-question quiz to students to assess who understood the lesson.

I didn’t know that routine checking for understanding (and a five-question, end of the day quiz isn’t particularly innovative) makes a teacher a “data analyst.”

“T.F.A. is a really strong name,” he said. “It seems as if going to work for McKinsey or something like that; they hold the same value.”

I can’t even begin to critique this…