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TFA planning special activities for frozen-out corps members

Teach for America is calling on its sizable alumni base to help entertain new teachers while they wait for the hiring freeze to be lifted.

Despite halving the size of this year’s cohort and directing many teachers to charter schools, TFA still hasn’t found jobs for 118 of its 300-odd new teachers, according to an e-mail sent to graduates of the program yesterday. While TFA officials “continue to be optimistic” that the Department of Education’s freeze on outside hires will be lifted, they anticipate that “a substantial number” of new corps members will remain jobless when the school year begins, the e-mail said.

The organization is putting together additional training for the unplaced teachers, according to the e-mail from Jemina Bernard, director of the program’s New York region. It is also asking the more than 2,000 graduates of the program who live in the city to provide “social and cultural opportunities,” such as home-cooked meals and walking tours, between now and the end of October for the new teachers. “I want to be very clear how critical this period of time is for our 2009 corps and how extremely important it is that we come together as a family to fully support them,” Bernard wrote.

Teach for America told its new members this spring that they would be guaranteed a salary for 40 business days after the start of classes, even if they hadn’t found a position. The city’s Teaching Fellows program, which like Teach for America offers training and a path to certification for aspiring teachers, is offering no such guarantee, unlike in past years. The 700 new fellows received a stipend for their summer training but will not be paid again until they land a job at a school. More than half of the new fellows are now eligible for teaching jobs, but many are not.

Bernard’s complete e-mail is below:

Dear [graduate],

I hope this e-mail finds you well.

As you’ve likely read in our recent alumni updates, the New York regional placement team is continuing to work tirelessly to place our 300+ incoming 2009 corps members. Although we continue to be optimistic about securing additional placements, we still have 118 corps members who have yet to be placed. Since the school year is now less than two weeks away, we believe it is very likely that we will have a substantial number of our corps members who do not receive their placements until after the first few weeks of school.

With that in mind, we’re asking for your help in ensuring that corps members who are not placed by the first day of school feel supported and welcomed into both our Teach For America family and the region at large. Our professional development team is creating a menu of workshops, observations and assistantships to build understandings of school contexts for these corps members. We’d like to leverage our strong alumni base in order to provide additional social and cultural opportunities to the 2009 corps members so that, despite the challenges they’ve faced even before they enter the classroom, they develop into our most motivated, inspired, and cohesive corps yet.

We’re searching for alumni who are willing to host activities during the first two months of the school year for yet-to-be placed 2009 corps members. Alumni will be given wide discretion in determining what types of activities they’re willing and able to organize: host six corps members in your apartment for a dinner party, lead a walking tour of your favorite neighborhood in upper Manhattan, start a book club … whatever inspires you and brings our corps members together!

I want to be very clear how critical this period of time is for our 2009 corps and how extremely important it is that we come together as a family to fully support them. If you’re able to organize and host an event between now and the end of October, please let us know by completing the short survey here.

Thank you for your continued dedication to our cause and our corps. And if you haven’t yet met members of the 2009 corps, prepare to be inspired!

All my best,

Jemina R. Bernard
Teach For America • New York

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