Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Google Hearts TFA in Worst Way

People looking to get a job at Google might first want to spend a few years as a teacher.

That is the lede for what appears to be a serious imitation of the classic Onion send-up of Teach For America. Business Insider has written a glowing portrait of how TFA can be a great stepping-stone to a career at Google.

A company spokesperson tells BI writer Aaron Taube that the tech giant loves people from TFA because the program "requires new graduates to think on their feet and achieve success in a challenging new environment..." Google in fact has a partnership with TFA that allows Googlers to defer a job offer until they've served their two years with TFA. How liberating it must be to walk into that classroom knowing that your real job is already waiting for you.

Taube's interview was with Meghan Casserly, Google head of culture communications, and A. T. McWilliams, TFA alum and current Googler.

"TFA graduates have to coach their students in an environment where motivation isn't always a given ... and solve very complex problems that require patience, perseverance and commitment — things we really value at Google," said Casserly. "It's difficult to find talented professionals with this kind of intense experience at such an early stage in their career."

McWilliams offers his own experience as an example. He was placed in Brooklyn (in one of the "coveted" TFA openings).  

There, McWilliams learned a handful of skills that he says have helped make him more effective at his job at Google, where he became a full-time member of the company's New York corporate communications team this past summer.

Taube actually frames TFA's infamous five weeks of training (hey-- how much do you need to be a teacher, really) as a plus. It forced McWilliams to learn on the job and come up with creative solutions. See, if he had actually been trained to be a teacher, he would have wasted his time just implementing proven professional instructional techniques, and lord knows he wouldn't have gotten any business training out of that.

It's an astonishing article. There's this sentence--

Perhaps most importantly, TFA forced him to think long and hard about how people learn, and to use that knowledge to solve difficult problems. 

Followed, without a trace of irony by this phrase--

During his two years in the classroom

Yes, two whole years of long, hard thinking. Oh, the hard thinking. It must have been exhausting, but worthwhile because it built him some big, strong thinky parts. I know that in my decades of teaching, two years was about all I spent thinking about how students learn (of course, I had the disadvantage of taking courses about that in teacher school).

McWilliams says that all of this experience will help him with managing people, although he is not in charge of anyone yet, and I am wondering why the heck not?? He was a 2012 grad, which means he finished his two years about four months ago, or at least triple the time he needed to become an awesometastic teacher-ish guy. If it takes five weeks to make a teacher, surely Google can turn him into a Leader of Men in four months!

"At Teach for America, you're not only learning how to teach someone else, you're also learning what factors help someone learn the best," McWilliams says.

Oh, for the love of God!! You know what else you might just accidentally do occasionally at Teach for America-- you might take your head out of your own rectal cavity and TEACH SOME CHILDREN!! Or did you think that all those children in your classroom were just gathered together so that you could have an educational experience to better prepare you for your real career. Do you think those children got up every morning and thought, "Boy, I just hope that today I can help Mr. McWilliams become the best Googler in the whole world! I just want him to be really succesful!" Is that what you think was going on??

Sigh. It is McWilliams who has the last word in the article. "I think the Teach for America experience is really applicable in any place that requires you to be smart and creative," he says. Because, yes, that's what TFA is apparently supposed to do-- provide college grads with an experience that they can apply to their real jobs later. Those children are just your own personal ladder to success.

I often discuss TFA as if it is dismissive of teaching as a profession, that it belittles the whole idea of teaching. But this is actually worse, because teaching isn't even on the radar in this article. It's just one more life experience for a college grad who's just passing through, unable to see the children for all the visions of Googlebucks. Sorry, Onion. Real life has passed you up.


  1. What are Google's financial/political connections to the privatization efforts (aka education reform) aimed at the public education system?

    How is Google using public policy in the education sector to get their products (Chrome Book) into the public school systems (especially in NY State)?

    Who is facilitating all of this and who is involved in funneling public monies (taxes) into the private sector of the technology industry?

    What role are Superintendents, CIO's, Tech Admins, etc. playing in all of this?

    Are they getting kickbacks, career advancements, benefits etc. as they advance this agenda?

  2. Here's a comment I like:

    --In his [McWilliams'] mind, these skills are not just applicable in public relations or at Google. In fact, many of his peers in the Teach for America program are now successfully transferring what they learned from the program to their studies at law and medical school.

    "I think the Teach for America experience is really applicable in any place that requires you to be smart and creative," McWilliams says.

    Any place except the classroom, apparently. Because, you know, that's too hard. Still, it's nice that we've found a way for our inner-city children to benefit society, by training up those Google execs of the future.

  3. Here's a prescient statement:

    "You'd be surprised how similar to first graders are to adults."

    Well, they will be if we let CCSS have its way with our littlest ones. Then again, perhaps this references the "adults" McWilliams knows from TFA.