Monday, September 1, 2008

Why the NYC Teaching Fellows program?

In response to a long-term, systemic shortage of teachers, the city created the New York City Teaching Fellows program (NYCTF) in 2000. As stated on their website:

... the mission of the NYC Teaching Fellows program is to recruit and prepare high-quality, dedicated individuals to become teachers.
Basically, the program allows someone looking to leave their current career and become a teacher to do so without first having to go back to school, get a Masters, get their teacher certification -- up to a three year process. Previously, this process acted as a significantly high bar of entry for otherwise qualified individuals looking to teach. The NYCTF program short-circuits this bar, allowing candidates accepted into the program to begin teaching immediately (after some brief, fast-track training). All of the requirements listed above are still there, but the Fellows can obtain them all WHILE already teaching. The Fellows also get a subsidised Masters degree.

This is the program I have applied to.

While I've heard many good things about the program, and even spoken with people who have gone through it, the picture isn't all rosy. I've also heard (and read) plenty of horror stories: of newly minted teachers quitting after their first year or even within the first few months; of horrific classrom conditions, abusive and apathetic students, abusive and apathetic principals; of swift disallusionment with teaching; and on, and on, and on.

I'm not going into this with any sort of wide-eyed idiocy. I understand that the average NYC classroom environment may be less than ideal. I understand that, in the end, it all may turn out to be the wrong move for me. I understand all of this. I don't think I'm going to change the world one inner-city kid at a time. I don't think I'm Michelle Pfieffer in that movie where she changes the world one inner-city kid at a time. I understand that, even if it works out and even if I like it, that it's going to be difficult.

I'm not choosing to go into teaching because it's easy, or because I want to "make a difference", or to "give back to my community." I am choosing to become a teacher because I want to teach. Period.

You know how some people decide they want to paint, some people decide they want to climb a mountaing, some, that they are going to write a novel or start an Internet company. Well I've decided that I am going to teach. Of course, I do hope to change a few lives along the way.

I think the NYCTF program gives me the opportunity to get into teaching, relatively quicky, and see if it fits. I fully beleive that it will and I'll spend the rest of my life doing it. But if it doesn't work out -- and I imagine that is something I'll know fairly early on -- I'll have the flexibility to switch back to a career in computers. Such a jump BACK to computers is not my desire, but, if I'm realistic about this (and I've promised myself that I will be), have to keep that as a fall-back position.

This all assumes, of course, that I actually get INTO the program. I'll talk about process in my next post.


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