The most potent criticism of Teach for America comes from recruits who joined the corps, then discovered they were ill-prepared for the challenges of a high-needs classroom.

This letter from Annie Tan was posted on the blog “Cloaking Inequity,” which is Julian Vasquez Heilig’s blog.

She writes:

“I have had my gripes about TFA from sophomore year of college. Learning about the neoliberal education reform movement, lack of teachers of color in the profession, TFA’s support of charter schools, funding from questionable sources who may have ulterior motives in education other than the education of all students, factored into my criticism of TFA. I didn’t want to be a savior in education- I just wanted to teach. But I guess I did fall into a savior mentality as I joined- I thought I was going to be so much better, that I was going to save my students. I was very smug about it, until the realities of the first year beat me down.”

Annie taught in a Chicago charter school where most of the other teachers were TFA. It bothered her that the charter had displaced a beloved neighborhood public school. Parents realized that few of the teachers would stay for long. Annie came to see that she was not a savior.