Cave Full of Guano – When the BATs Arrive, and What They Leave Behind
Last week on Corps Knowledge, Reshma Singh penned a celebration of the women who lead and have developed their leadership through Teach For America. It quickly became the most popular post on Corps Knowledge and we saw countless other women tagged on social media to have their efforts celebrated. It was a great – and proud – day for our fledgling community.
We also saw an organized pushback attempt by the Badass Teachers Association on Friday and shared our initial thoughts on the absurdity of trying to crash our party and rain on our celebration with defiant vitriol, regardless of the fact they didn’t have an invite.
Then, with the blood moon pending, and not satisfied with our response, the BATs came out in force this weekend. The official BAT twitter account and leader Marla Kilfoyle tweeted out to their membership asking for BAT members to comment on the article – and comment they did. By Sunday evening, when we turned off the comments, there was over one hundred.
Which is all kind of sad. At a moment where we were celebrating the thousands of women who have had a tremendous impact on students, and an organization that has embraced their leadership and has put the rubber to the road when it comes to gender equity, another group of teachers – actual teachers who stand in actual classrooms teaching actual students – decided to gang up on the message and rain on the celebration. It isn’t the first time they’ve done so, and, unfortunately, it won’t be the last.
But it begs the question: why does this coalition of press-described “militants” feel threatened whenever we celebrate the success and contributions of Teach For America corps members and alumni?
Let’s see what they have to say, in their own words:
1. When they claim to have a copyright on the word “badass”:
“Are you trying to co opt the language of the Badass Teachers movement? Five week trained scabs are not bad ass nor teachers. Nice try but we aren't fooled.”
“Pathetic Imitation is the pathetically sincerest form of pathetic flattery. or something . . . heh heh. I mean, this just beats all! Pathetic.”
“This is not badass, how dare you try to co-opt the badass theme! Come at me ten, fifteen years from now when you've earned comparable qualifications (not the ones handed to you), and stayed in the classroom and not used is as a jump to the boardroom.”
“Hahahaha, tried to co-opt our skills as teachers, largely failed(ing), now trying to co-opt our skills as activists, FAILING! You are NOT teachers, nor badasses. True teachers stay and make a difference! WE are teachers and badasses!”
And in case you forgot, we’ll say it again – these comments are from teachers who are teaching children daily.
2. When they engage in crafting conspiracy theories:
“You're not qualified to teach three-year-olds. What you are doing is trying to destroy the public education system of this country for your own personal profit in game for your own personal profit and gain. And for that you should be ashamed. And don't be surprised that we have NO respect much less appreciation for you. Quit trying to co-op the badass teachers association, the real BAT's who are trying to save publication in this country.. Being a copycat only actually gives credit to the real organization that you're correctly acknowledging does an incredibly much better job than you do.”
“Wendy, your scabs are trying to help those who would destroy public education and leave our most vulnerable children behind.”
“Badass? Dumbass.......TFA needs to fold. You're already folding education.”
3. When they build straw men that don’t accurately capture the diversity in backgrounds of the corps and alumni:
“I am a professor who regularly seeing her students hired for TFA - and trust me -- these kids that go on to TFA are not ready to teach anybody anything. They are totally clueless and have no idea about the outside world other than academia and upper middle class suburbia. These are kids who have spent the past four years grade grubbing and cheerleading and organizing frat parties. They all say very clearly that they do this to get into law school.”
4. When they’re just misinformed:
“Bad? Yes! Badass? Definitely not! While there are a few exceptions, TFA sends "teachers" into classrooms completely ill prepared for the realities of teaching. MANY quit before the end of the year. Few make it more than 2 years.”
(TFA’s program retention rate is not only outstanding, it’s 30 percentage points higher than the average for undergraduate colleges and universities.)
“TFA teachers, I challenge you to spend more than one or two years in a classroom. I challenge you to join a district as a person with a degree who wants to teach, and I want you to apply for alternative certification, a process that takes about 2-3 years. I challenge you, as a new teacher, to join the local teacher union, so that you can understand the importance of banding together.”
(Many stay longer than two years, all are enrolled in alternative certification programs, and a majority of TFA corps members are members of their local teacher union.)
5. When they define success—and being badass—in the classroom by two factors: length of tenure and length of training rather than student learning
“No one with a 5 week training period should even think about calling themselves a badass. Unless it was a typo and you meant, Teach for America is "bad," for education. And anyone who uses TFA is an ass! That I would agree too.”
“Badass Teachers are in the profession for the long run, not for resume building. We are there for the kids long after you TFA employees move on and your charter schools shut down. Stop pretending to compare yourselves to real classroom professionals.”
We’d like to thank all the BATs who dropped by to offer their perspective on what badass means. We’re pretty comfortable with our own definition, however. And we’re also comfortable with a community that embraces the success of women in the classroom and in leadership, and that doesn’t need to tear down another group to affirm that success.