A worm in the Apple for teachers
Recently I stopped at a mall with one of my daughters for a quick trip to a particular store. By chance, I passed by the Apple store and saw a poster that instantly raised my blood pressure. Young teen in tow, I stopped short, marched into the store, and requested of the nearest store employee the contact information for the Apple customer relations department. The poor guy asked if he could help but I calmly explained that he probably couldn’t. I was infuriated by the poster suggesting that Apple was “helping” teachers in low-income schools because it is teaming with Teach for America to donate iPads to TFA employees. Uh, Apple, if you really want to help teachers in urban schools, maybe y’all could start by helping those with experience and education in the field.
Teach for America, I explained, consists of people with degrees in other fields who go through a brief summer training program prior to working in the classroom. With all due respect, they are not, strictly speaking, teachers, not yet, “intensive five weeks summer institute” notwithstanding. Actually, as I explained to two Apple employees, that is part of the problem I have with the Apple/TFA partnership. Teach for America promotes a notion that it can create (bigger? better? snappier?) teachers through a remarkably brief training program, and agencies like Apple and a general lack of social incredulity help to promote the delusion that a quality teacher can be cultivated in a matter of weeks. (For now, let’s not even discuss what is happening with experienced teachers in urban schools nationwide but suffice it to say that we at FSP and others have written at length on the topic.) Today I finally wrote the letter to Apple’s executive relations department and plan to put it in the mail tomorrow. Here is my most recent draft and I encourage others to write similar letters, or share this one if they similarly disapprove of Apple’s current Teach for America campaign (Apple Inc, Attn: Executive Relations, 1 Infinite Loop, Cupertino, CA 95014):
To Whom It May Concern:
This letter is a follow-up to a conversation I had with one of your customer service representatives, Katie Phillips, on August 4th (case 236911204); I greatly appreciate her assistance. As a loyal user of Apple products for the past fifteen years, a holder of Apple stocks, and an urban teacher, I am writing to articulate how viscerally disappointed I was to see that Apple has channeled a desire to help teachers in low-income schools by providing iPads to employees of Teach for America. I am an effective, highly qualified, graduate-school educated, bilingual, urban public school teacher and I wonder why you did not launch a campaign to help urban students in low-income neighborhoods by supporting experienced, qualified, veteran teachers. Students in high-risk neighborhoods need, and deserve, qualified and committed educators working with them. Perhaps you are unaware that thousands of urban teachers, with degrees in the educational field, have been working diligently in high-need areas for years. Perhaps you are unaware that TFA teachers are not teachers by profession, and instead receive a brief summer training program prior to their work in urban schools. While I do not disparage the intent, efforts, or abilities of individual Teach for America candidates, this assembly-line approach to teaching fundamentally insults those of us who have dedicated our careers to education. Your endorsement of TFA helps to erode the professionalism of the teaching field. Tellingly, your website promotion of Teach for America notes that its candidates commit to two years of teaching. Meanwhile, I have committed to my fifteenth year, and can name colleagues with up to thirty years of practical experience in the neediest of schools.
Perhaps you are also unaware that there is a movement to discredit and de-professionalize the teaching field. However, the message sent by TFA head, Wendy Kopp (whose bachelor’s degree, by the way, is in public and international affairs, not education), as well as other self-proclaimed school “reformers” regarding (often-unionized) public school teachers is predominantly a blameful and negative one. These polarizing forces, would like to suggest that problems in urban schools are solely the onus of the public school teacher, and that they–white knights for the cause–can provide formulaic solutions to the very real challenges we face in urban neighborhoods. This is patently false, and should be a ridiculous proposition. Consider, please, the work of nurses, police officers, doctors, lawyers and firefighters, and our understanding that optimum performance of these jobs is sometimes complicated by factors out of the professionals’ sphere of influence. We do not accept police officers, nurses, doctors, firefighters or lawyers practicing in the field after a summer crash course, yet somehow it has become perfectly acceptable to do just this in the neediest of public schools.
Therefore, when I recently saw a poster in the window of one of your retail stores trumpeting your support of “urban teachers”, via Teach for America, I felt like I had been punched. I was inspired to purchase stock in Apple primarily for ideological reasons and am deeply troubled by your endorsement of McTeachers in favor of those with educational training. When we want to know about a subject, we typically find an expert. Pity that Apple did not seek out expert teachers in its bid to help urban schools.
Suffice it to say, this particular Apple for teachers left me with a nasty taste in my mouth, especially since it was not offered to the teachers who are most qualified to work with students at risk.