Friday, May 23, 2014

See You In 2015! (Well, actually in August 2014)

Although hard to believe, our 2014 Admissions season has come to an end! Our 2014 corps members are getting ready for summer training and our 2015 Early Deadline applicants have received their regional assignments. We want to thank everyone who applied to the corps this year, whether you're heading to the classroom this fall or preparing to do other work, we want to thank you for the time, effort, and energy you put into our process. We hope all of our applicants will continue to work towards educational equity, either through Teach For America or through other organizations.

Since our 2014 admissions season has ended, we won't be updating this blog throughout the summer, but we'll be back with more application tips, interview prep, and corps member stories starting in August. Our 2015 corps member application will be available starting August 1, 2014. Have a great summer!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Early Deadline Applicants

Did you know that Teach For America has already started selecting the 2015 corps? Through our Early Deadline, applicants who had an undergraduate graduation date between July 1, 2014 and June 30, 2015 were eligible to apply early to the 2015 corps. On May 5, all of our Early Deadline applicants will be notified of their final admissions decision. If you're one of these applicants, congratulations on completing the admissions process! Regardless of your admissions decision on Monday, we want to thank you for all the time and effort you put into applying. Be sure to read below for more information about your timeline and next steps.

If you are admitted early to the 2015 corps:

When can I confirm my offer?
Admitted early deadline applicants will be able to confirm in the fall of 2014, around early November.

When can I apply for grants and/or loans?
Admitted early deadline applicants will be able to apply for transitional funding in the fall of 2014

When will I receive my subject assignment?
Subject assignments are based on the needs of a region, so we won’t be able to determine your subject assignment until the fall of 2014.

Will I have any required actions over the summer?
Unless you are an Equity Fellows, Early Deadline applicants do not have any required actions over the summer. However we hope to provide development opportunities that many admitted applicants will take part in.

If you are not admitted early to the 2015 corps:

Can I reapply to the 2015 corps in the fall?
All Early Deadline applicants who are not invited to join the corps are eligible to reapply to the 2015 corps through an alternate application process. We will have more details in the fall.

What will my reapplication process look like?
We'll have more details about the process in the fall of 2014.

Will I receive feedback on my application?
While our Selection Committee will not be able to provide specific feedback on your individual application, we will provide detailed information on how to strengthen your application and suggestions on ways to develop your skills.

If you missed our online event for Early Deadline applicants last night, you can access the recording here.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Congratulations To Our 5th Deadline Applicants!

Earlier today our fifth deadline applicants were notified if they are admitted to the corps. If you were one of these applicants, congratulations! We hope you're excited about the opportunity and the chance to make an impact in the lives of students.


Friday, April 11, 2014

Our Partners

Teach For America receives many applications each year and although not everyone who applies will be admitted, we see great potential in our applicants. If you are not admitted to the corps this year, this doesn't mean you can't go out and make an impact in other ways and it doesn't mean you can't affect real change. The fight for educational equity is bigger than Teach For America alone and that we're just one organization engaged in this work. To end educational inequity, it will take many of us, with multiple, varying perspectives, in a variety of fields. Whatever your admissions decision is on April 17, it's important to remember that Teach For America is just pathway in education reform.

Because of this, Teach For America partners with many different organizations. Some are working directly in education reform, others are in non-profit fields, and others are working more broadly towards social good. Our partners are diverse and represent different sectors. They impact communities from every angle, and they are committed to making a difference for kids, regardless of their particular sector.

If this is not your year to become a corps member, there are many great organizations and programs doing important work that we want you to consider. Last year, our partner organizations hired more than 260 of our former applicants. These individuals are currently working for educational equity, putting their skills and passions to work for kids and communities. Some may reapply to Teach For America in future years and we welcome them to do so. Others will continue working towards equity in other ways, and we support that too. Ultimately we hope you continue to work towards change, either with Teach For America or through another avenue.

As a reminder, our 5DL applicants will be notified on Thursday, April 17.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

After the Final Interview...

Believe it or not, last week we completed our final round of interviews for the 2014 corps, and with our Early Deadline, our first round of interviews for the 2015 corps! So the question that many applicants have is what now? 2014 applicants will be notified of their admissions decision on April 17 and while you wait we have a few more ways for you to engage!
  • If you missed our call last night about what's next (including what to do if you're not admitted to the corps) check out our event recording.
  • Register for our upcoming events. Learn about some of our partner organizations on April 10 and hear stories from current corps members on April 14. You can register for both events through the Applicant Center.
  • Catch up on what's going on in Teach For America and more broadly in the world of education through our blog Pass the Chalk
  • If you don't already, follow our team on Twitter for updates

Finally, take advice from a previous applicant and enjoy the downtime:

"My advice to someone who has just completed their final interview is quite simple: (1) Breathe: You just finished an incredibly intensive interview process. Breathe. (2) Celebrate: You survived the sample teach, that in itself is deserving of the best victory dance you've got! (3) Believe: Whether you end up doing Teach For America or not, your conviction to end educational inequity still stands true. Believe that everything happens for a reason."

Thanks to everyone who interviewed with us last week. We appreciate your time and effort!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Assignment vs. Placement

This week our fifth deadline applicants are interviewing and completing their required forms, including the Assignment Preference Form. We receive many questions about our assignment process and there are many misconceptions. For example did you know many of the criteria for a region are set by the state and not Teach For America? Or that what we assign you to teach isn’t set in stone? Or that when you are assigned to a region you still need to interview for a teaching position? To talk more about these topics we've recruited our assignment guru Caroline Rubin to explain how we assign you, how your placement is determined, and the difference between the two.

When I was accepted into the corps way back in 2008, I was assigned to teach elementary school in what was then the New York City region (now it’s just New York, but I’m an old fogey and still call myself an NYC alum). I was initially bummed about the NYC part, I had wanted to be in Boston, which ended up not becoming a Teach For America region until 2009 – but pretty excited about the elementary assignment. Surely elementary students would be all sweetness and light, and my time in the corps would be filled with adorable children showering me with hand-made drawings and hugs. My fourth grade classroom at Institute quickly disabused me of that notion – elementary schoolers are indeed great, but they need strong lesson planning and classroom management just like any other students.

As the summer wrapped up I still hadn’t been placed yet. “Placed” meaning hired to teach in an actual classroom in an actual school. I wasn’t too worried because I knew that I would be placed eventually, and every week I saw the NYC Teach For America staff arranging interviews for more of my peers, and I saw those interviews turn into jobs. Finally, in the last week of Institute, I got a call from my Teach For America staff point person informing me that I had an interview at a K-8 school in the Bronx. I put on the suit I had bought for my Teach For America interview, made copies of my resume, and steeled myself for the interview, which was over remarkably quickly and without me really having time to process whether or not I was even doing well. A week later the assistant principal called me to say I was hired and should report to school the next day for new teacher orientation. Oh, and I’d be teaching seventh grade science.

I was surprised and nervous to find out I would be teaching middle school, but I also wanted and needed a job, and I knew I had to take the first offer that I received – to do otherwise would sour Teach For America’s relationship with the school trying to hire me, and hinder the ability of future corps members to get placed there (indeed, two other corps members were hired after me that year, and another two the year after – that’s four people besides myself who wouldn’t have had jobs if I had turned my nose up at middle school). So I dutifully reported for school the next day, and spent the next two years teaching science to the smartest, funniest, and all around greatest seventh graders in the world. I won’t lie and say the transition from 4th to 7th grade was completely seamless, or that I didn’t struggle a lot that first year, but with the support of my Teach For America program director, my fellow corps members, and the other teachers in my building, I was able to do it. I learned to love seventh grade science, from the almost frenzied curiosity my students had about virtually everything we learned in class (they had never had a science teacher before me!) to the awesome experiments we got to do, from burning dollar bills in acetone to dissecting cow eye balls.

Fast forward to today, and I am working on the Teach For America admissions team. Specifically, I’m the person who assigns accepted corps members to the region and subject area they will be teaching. How do I do that? I use a highly complicated system of throwing darts at a map computer algorithm that matches available positions in each of our regions with the accepted applicants who both want to teach there and who meet that state’s particular certification requirements (usually a combination of GPA and coursework requirements). In situations where there are more qualified applicants who want a particular region than positions available there, the computer uses a random lottery to decide who gets assigned there.

I tell you this somewhat long story not because I expect anyone but me to be particularly interested in my career history, but to illustrate the very important yet often under-explained difference between your Teach For America assignment and your Teach For America placement. Your assignment is the region and subject area that we in admissions tell you you’ll be teaching when we notify you of your acceptance (my assignment was elementary school in New York City). Your placement is the actual subject and grade you are hired to teach at a particular school in your region (my placement was seventh grade science).

Regional staff keep in close communication with their partner schools throughout the year to find out what vacancies they anticipate having the following year, which they then use to tell us on the admissions team how many corps members they anticipate needing in each subject area. We in admissions then use those projections to make our initial assignments. However, it is not uncommon for a school’s hiring needs to change. Maybe an English teacher who had been planning to retire decided to stay another year, while a Spanish teacher unexpectedly moved to a new city over the summer. Now that region needs one less English corps members, and one more Spanish one.

Does this mean your initial assignment is completely meaningless? No, of course not. The region you are assigned to won’t change, and the majority of corps members do end up teaching within the subject area they were initially assigned to – once you are assigned you will need to study for and pass your region’s state certifying exam to be eligible to teach, and if you are an English corps member in the hypothetical region above you won’t be placed as a Spanish teacher if you aren’t going to be able to pass the required exam (in my own story, I did have to study for and pass a new teacher certification exam to be eligible to teach science).

However, keep in mind that placements within a license area can span broad swaths of classrooms; “elementary” in many regions can mean anything between kindergarten and sixth grade, “social studies” can mean anything from pushing into fifth grade classrooms with a cart to teaching high school seniors about the economic causes of World War II, and so on. And while you likely won’t be randomly switched from pre-K to high school physics without your regional staff talking with you about your ability to handle such a drastic change, you should be aware that what happened to me is not uncommon. If there are no placements available in the subject you were initially assigned to, you may be asked to take another certifying exam or interview for positions in a different subject, and that’s okay.

If we could predict with 100% accuracy which grade level and subject you would be hired to teach next year, we would absolutely tell you that information up front. But given the complex and ever-changing landscape of teacher hiring, we have to make the most well-informed predictions we can, and then be prepared to be flexible when school hiring needs change. Adaptability will serve you well as a corps member, from when the fire alarm goes off while you are doing a lab to when your projector breaks in the middle of a lesson, so getting into a flexible mindset early on will only help make the road smoother for you later or, at least it will make you more able to roll with the bumps. And, let’s not forget, even if I had been placed in an elementary classroom, it was never going to be the angelic group of “Leave it to Beaver” children I had been imagining. I was going to have to adjust my imagined classroom to fit reality anyway, and likely you will too.

I know it can seem scary to not know with certainty what exact type of classroom you’ll be in come fall, but no matter what your placement is you already know the most important thing you need to know about your future students: They need a great teacher, and regardless of their subject and grade level that teacher can be, needs to be, you.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Final Interviews Are Just Around the Corner!

Our fifth deadline applicants are planning their sample lessons, scanning their transcripts, and researching our regions. This can only mean one thing--final interviews are upon us! If you're one of these applicants, hopefully you're getting ready for the big day. Read on to find some helpful tips and answers to some frequently asked questions:

I don't know which regions to preference on my Assignment Preference Form. There's so many options!
First off, I recommend checking out our Where We Work page, and reviewing the regional comparison spreadsheet on the Applicant Center to give you a better idea of what our regions are like. You can also check out our post on what to consider when making your decision. You should only preference regions where you can attend their regional induction and institute. Review the Dates to Consider document to verify you're picking regions you can go to! Don't forget you'll need to include one high priority region on your form.

I know transcripts are due by March 28, but I won't have mine in time. What do I do?
While we hope you'll be able to update them by the deadline and you should do everything you can to do so, if you just can't get them uploaded in time, then write a transcript note explaining the issue. You should also prepare to talk to your interviewer about why you didn't have them on time. If you receive them in the mail before your interview day, scan and upload them ASAP! You shouldn't bring them with you to your interview day, as they'll need to be uploaded electronically.

My recommenders haven't submitted their Online Recommendation Forms.
Remember, your forms are due tomorrow, March 28. Be sure to check the Status page of your Applicant Center. This status is always the most up-to-date information we have on your forms. If it says "Started" but not "Submitted" that means we don't have it. Be sure to check with your recommenders, advise them to check their spam folders if they haven't received it and if necessary, you can update their e-mail address. You can also send reminder e-mails right to your recommenders on the Applicant Center

What will my interview room be like? What should I bring with me?
Since all our interview spaces are generously donated, this can really vary! We have interview spaces at universities, offices, conference centers, etc. We can guarantee that there will be a writing surface in your room. This can mean a chalk board, white board, or chart paper. We'll also provide a writing utensil of course, but we can't promise more than that! If your lesson relies on any kind of technology you'll have to bring that yourself. You'll also have to set it up in your one minute prep period. Be sure to consider this when planning your lesson.

Good luck at your final interview next week! If you missed our Final Interview webinar earlier this week, check out our recording for more information and an overview of your day.