January 26th, 2010

The Real World of Teach for America
Colleston Morgan - "The Realist"

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Meet Harvard graduate Colleston Morgan. His first two years as a Teach for America teacher were highly successful.  So why did he leave the classroom to pursue graduate school?

This video is part of our series following the day in the life of a Teach for America recruit. Watch the entire series here and weigh in with your comments.

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This is a thoughtful and candid portrait of a successful TFA teacher. Colleston’s story raises the question, should TFA make an extra effort to retain their best teachers and lengthen the 2-year turnaround?

I have to disagree with the last comment about lengthening the 2 year requirement. A lot of these teachers are doing a lot more “work” than veteran teachers. Having them stay longer can and most likely would lead to burnout many in Ed reform see as a leading cause of declined academic success. TFA’ers are like adding quick burning gasoline to a fire. It will burn quickly but you just keep adding more (ie new corps members every two years) in order to keep levels of success high. Having great teachers that devote 60-70 hours a week like TFA’ers is simply a unrealistic expectation for the long run.

Colleston, a second year CM had a lot in common with Lindsay. His students to him were people with individual personalities and experiences. I was struck by his straightforward view of their life experiences. Carlton states that “some of his students are more mature than he was at 18.” Respect for students was primary in establishing an excellent rapport. To him,15 year old male students simply wanted to push the boundaries and to be seen as men. His response is that “teaching is psychology.” Through this understanding, Colleston is able to focus on a classroom of respect for himself and his students rather than “command and control” of the classroom.


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