January 26th, 2010

The Real World of Teach for America
Jeylan Erman - "The Perfectionist"

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Jeylan Erman graduated from Princeton. She enrolled in Teach for America, worked hard and really wanted to be a role model. So why didn’t she get the results she expected?

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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What really struck me about this video is Jeylan’s self-centeredness. I literally sat here in frustration and awe as she said (not verbatim):

* “I was in COMMAND of that classroom.”
* “I could have made $80K on Wall Street. I’ll be talking about MY education a lot because I enjoyed it so much.”
* “I cared so much and it broke my heart that THEY didn’t recognize that.”
* “I could CONTROL the entire class.”

Asking high school kids to put their heads on their desks and thinking they would be completely silent and work independently? Somebody obviously didn’t give her a good grounding of what should be expected of students. Better yet, she didn’t have the opportunity to actually SPEND TIME in classrooms to see what it’s really like. She realizes it now, but unfortunately, it’s too late and as the video says, “She’s moved on …”

But, Melissa, getting control of my classroom worked. According to my students’ performance on state standardized tests, I was able to close the achievement gap by 30% in my classroom. I think something needs to be said for trying to get command of your classroom. I may not have been good at it at the beginning of the year but I really do think things turned around by the end. I just wish you could have seen it.

my thoughts (almost) verbatim

Jeylan, those state standardized tests are crap. They’re an illogical, backwards holdover from over 30 years of shoddy issue-driven education policy. The American public school system is a globally shameful mess, what’s being done to students right now is tantamount to psychological violence, and post-NCLB accountability insanity is a large part of the problem. But you don’t understand that, because you’re not a real teacher.


But hey, good job being part of the problem for a year before you moved on to bigger and better things.

Thespiral, it sounds like you’re mis-projecting your anger onto Ms. Erman. Who are you to say who is and is not a ‘real’ teacher? Anyone who attempts to rise to the challenges of a classroom because they want to make a difference is doing something wonderful that many others would not. If Ms. Erman would have stayed in that classroom without feeling like teaching was the profession for her, she would be doing more of a disservice to her students. It sounds like you should be angry at the policymakers who brought us NCLB, not at one particular teacher who was required to enforce it.

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