An Alternative to Teach for America | IDEA

An Alternative to Teach for America

Posted by Dana Bennis on Jul 29, 2013 - 09:34 AM

Teach for America (TFA) has seen some strong pushback recently, from the decisions in Minnesota and California that scale back TFA's growth to the assembly earlier this month at the Free Minds, Free People conference in Chicago where over 100 TFA alums, teachers, and other critics came together on the topic "Organizing Resistance to Teach for America and it's Role in Privatization." Coverage has been wide, from the Washington Post's Answer Sheet to The Guardian (yes, the UK newspaper). 

But the U.S. isn't the only place in the world thinking through ways to engage new folks in teaching.

A program in India offers a refreshing approach. Muktangan, the name of the organization and its program, trains local mostly poor women in Mumbai to become teachers in their community. The year-long training program helps to-be teachers learn creative and child-centered ways to engage students, and the prospective teachers work directly with practicing educators throughout the year. 

Muktangan not only helps its teachers learn how to create high-quality progressive educational experiences - "Pedagogy related to the cognitive, social and physical domains of development" - but as a recent NY Times article explains, it also supports low income women to be leaders working within their communities. 

Imagine if TFA was set up in the same way: offering a year-long program for low-income people to train to be teachers who will teach and become leaders in their own communities. A far cry from the 5-week training that places recent college grads in mostly low-income communities of color far from their home towns, as is the current TFA model.  

While approaches like those in Finland are something for us to work for universally here in the U.S. - practical experiences in high-quality teacher education programs, lots of time for teachers to engage in learning and professional development, and autonomy for teachers to be creative and flexible in supporting all students - an alternative model that was more like Muktangan would be a nice option to have.