Sunday, July 11, 2010

I Wonder How Many Unemployed Lawyers Applied to Teach For America

Consider yourself lucky if you were accepted to this year's Teach For America program. Getting into a T14 law school seems easier than getting into Teach For America these days:
Alneada Biggers, Harvard class of 2010, was amazed this past year when she discovered that getting into the nation’s top law schools and grad programs could be easier than being accepted for a starting teaching job with Teach for America.

Ms. Biggers says that of 15 to 20 Harvard friends who applied to Teach for America, only three or four got in. “This wasn’t last minute — a lot applied in August 2009, they’d been student leaders and volunteered,” Ms. Biggers said. She says one of her closest friends wanted to do Teach for America, but was rejected and had to “settle” for University of Virginia Law School.

Hah. "Settling for" law school is one of the first red flags that you do not belong in law school. There are easier and more lucrative professions to "settle for" rather than spending 3 years of your 20s and $150k to enter a miserable and jobless profession. Oh well. Alneada Biggers should feel very blessed. Teach for America might have saved her from the horrible fate of law school or graduate school during the jobless era. I'm going to guess Biggers will have a better chance at finding a job three years from now than her UVA Law friend.

Another plus that TFA offers is an income that most unemployed and shitlaw lawyers can only dream of: a $45,000 yearly income. I'm sure doc review attorneys are drooling right now.

I've heard mixed reviews about TFA. I knew several people who did the program right out of college and were unprepared and inexperienced to deal with the demands of teaching in an urban environment. TFA seems to have gone the way of top graduate and law schools in that it is prestigious in name and all the Ivy League grads want to go, but one can argue about its benefits to the people they are supposed to serve. I've always felt the program serves more as a stepping stone for the participating college graduates to put on their resume to get into a prestigious graduate school or get a good job after they leave TFA.

While Teach for America is highly regarded by undergrads — Mr. Goldberg said Duke recruiting sessions typically attracted 50 students — it gets mixed reviews from education experts.

Research indicates that generally, the more experienced teachers are, the better their students perform, and several studies have criticized Teach for America’s turnover rate.

“I’m always shocked by the hullaboo, given Teach for America’s size” — about 0.2 percent of all teachers — “and its mixed impact,” said Julian Vasquez Heilig, a University of Texas professor. Dr. Heilig and Su Jin Jez of California State University, Sacramento, recently published a critical assessment after reviewing two dozen studies. One study cited indicated that “by the fourth year, 85 percent of T.F.A. teachers had left” New York City schools.

“These people could be superstars, but most leave before they master the teaching craft,” Dr. Heilig said.

Maybe TFA should accept people who are actually serious about teaching as a career and not because they graduated from college (or law school) and couldn't find a job. Did any of you unemployed lawyers out there apply to Teach For America?


  1. It's great P.R. Largely over-privileged, mostly white college and grad school students rush into the cities to save the poor from themselves because they don't know better (I'm being cynical of course, it started with good intentions but so does the road to hell). This same phenomena is repeated across the federal government--whether it be Teach for America, Peace Corps, Army Corps of Engineers (largely a govt jobs program for unemployable engineers).

    I have several friends who did TFA for the bare minimum and then fled as fast as their feet could carry them to their "real careers" or to higher paying suburb schools (yes they're out there). The other perspective is that, as told to me by my teacher-friends, the students who were supposed to benefit from the program often became pissed that so many teachers would cycle through. They took it as there was something wrong with them and their own surroundings that these "elites" didn't want to stay around and teach.

    *Sidenote, I can just imagine the shock from some of those Harvard grads on not being accepted, "But I went to Harvard!" Assclowns.

  2. Spengler's Shop RatJuly 12, 2010 at 12:06 AM

    A good friend of mine was recently accepted to TfA directly from a second-tier undergrad program. He's always been exceptionally personable and outgoing, and teaching was really his dream. He was picked in favor of the fifteen or so JDs and PhDs at the group interview. This makes me think that motivation and the ability to impress your interviewer have more to do with getting into TfA than anything else.

  3. Are unemployed people allowed to apply for Teach for America? I had the impression it was a straight from school type of thing.

  4. I applied and was rejected, though I am still technically employed in the field of law. I've met a number of people who got in, and the difference between us seems to be continued commitment to community service. Most of my law school classmates participated in at most five days of service per year, and pro bono at my firm is nearly non-existent. Two of my friends who participated in the past essentially had at least a year working for a non profit or volunteering for the red cross or the like.

  5. Those TFAers are actually screwing things up for people who really want to teach as a second career. TFA is not about people who want to stay in teaching. It really is a version of the Peace Corps. I am going through alternative certification so I can win my sustainance as a teacher. $40K and Health Insurance here I come.

  6. A friend of mine applied to TFA as a college senior and was rejected. He was shocked SHOCKED that they would reject someone with a 3.4 from CORNELL.

    TFA's purpose is great but I agree with you BIDER, the college students who become teachers do it so they can tell stories to their future co workers in law firms, I banks, and consulting gigs about how they saved the world.

  7. I graduated from (a snooty) college the first year or so that TFA was around, and knew several do-gooder types who were in the first or second crop of teachers. While the folks I knew back in the Stone Age who did TFA were, IMHO, there for the right reasons, it does appear that the program has become just another ticket to punch, like the "prestigious" unpaid internship or the Ivy League degree. I kind of see today's TFA is not much more than a brand.

  8. I just applied for the program and I'm curious to know my chances of getting in. I've wanted to be a teacher since second grade, I'm a college graudate, I volunteer three times a month since I was eleven years old, and I'm a product of an inner city community. My desire is to teach in a area I grew up in. I hope they select the right people for the job and not rich college kids with no passion for teaching

  9. I never heard of the program, unfortunately. I was unemployed for nine months. It was depressing. So I starting "trolling" for jobs. Sent out over 80 cover letters just messing with firms who posted ads that I felt were annoying, for whatever reason. I finally found a job last month, and I celebrated by creating a website and releasing the first ten or so. Probably going to put another one up tonight. Its called trollingforjobs dot com

  10. Awesome, sandawg. Thanks for that!



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