Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Teach for America, and Rosebud?

Upon returning to the Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation in June 2011, I was shocked to hear that there are over 75 Teach for America teachers between Rosebud and Pine Ridge.  At first, I did not form any opinion on the fact that many of these teachers are coming in from all over the United States, and that many who work in the high school do not actually have a teaching degree.

Aside from the obvious problem that we have another group of government-funded teachers sent out to the Reservation with their idealistic mindsets about "saving the Indian," the larger problem seems to be that there is an actual "Native American Initiative."  This initiative, sponsored by Teach for America, has failed to inform the communities they are teaching in, that there is an initiative in the first place.

From my first observations, I can see that this is another "Waiting for Superman" moment for our Tribe.  I propose that money would be better spent if Teach for America teachers were not setting a goal of teaching 2/3 of our reservation children by 2015, but rather partnering with our Tribal University to assist us in equalizing education ourselves.  Our Tribe has its own Tribal College, Sinte Gleska University, which aims on training educational leaders and teachers from our own communities.

Why can't the government fund the educations of our own teachers, instead of bringing outside, institutionally-trained educators into a population of unsuspecting Native Americans?  Does the five week teacher-training program these teachers take in the summer before their first year in the classroom truly prepare them for life on the Reservation, our failing school systems, or our communities with unique problems?

The up-side of the Teach for America "movement" on my reservation is that there is less of a need for the major school district here to do outside recruitment and hiring on an annual basis.  If TFA teachers will teach 66.6% of our children in the next 3 years, it pretty much outsources the Native and area-community educator.  In my own personal experience this year, the TFA teachers have been given preference in teaching schedules (with some TFA teachers having only 2 to 13 students in a class); housing (with single teachers in 3 bedroom houses, while I have three children and was given a one-bedroom apartment in a parking lot); student loan repayment; and an automatically higher social status in the schools that Native American and veteran teachers are denied.  The TFA program on my reservation has pushed out many teachers in the last year, and I can only suspect that the trend will only continue at an even higher rate because the TFA teachers work for a much lower salary than seasoned, experienced teachers in our District.

The greatest problem that I can voice on this issue, is that NOBODY asked our community what they thought, or even if they wanted to subscribe to having 66.6% of our children being taught by Ivy-league graduates without teaching degrees in the first place.  Secondly, it outsources our own employment here on the Reservation to non-residents who will not live in our community longer than 2 years.  Finally, it does nothing to create long-term strategic planning, nor does the TFA Initiative give any credence to the fact that perhaps, for a change, Rosebud Sioux people are capable of changing ourselves!  (This is not a personal attack on people in general, but a criticism on what is best for our communities.)

Last, if we look across the United States, we can see the graveyards filled with Indian children's bones, which was the first governmentally-driven educational process that the US Government "gifted" the Native American.  The government boarding school era is still alive and well, and responsible for the societal issues that we deal with every day on our reservation.  Therefore, my criticism is that Tribes don't need more government, nor more government teachers.  We need ourselves, to create the true educational reform and educational equity that our people (the Sicangu Oyate) have forever been denied.  For the government to trust that we could possibly be capable of educational reform on our own, would be the first step in equalizing education on the Rosebud.

Top Blogs


  1. Good post, Lynne. I think we should at least ask our tribal education committee to investigate the impact these teachers are having on our youth, on our community social systems, and on our economy. It's only thirty years after the boarding school era that we are finding out how negatively we were impacted by boarding schools in areas other than education (such as addiction, dependance, sexual abuse, etc.) How can we minimize the damage that may be happening now if we can't discuss the true impact TFA's may be having?

  2. You are right Sammie. The State is actually sponsoring bills that will increase public state educational funding to the Teach for American Program now. These are teachers who are given 1st rate housing, support, & opportunities for professional development and growth that Native American teachers can only dream of having.

    Please read my newer post on this topic Sammie, and let me know what you think!

  3. So now the students from privileged East Coast boarding schools come on-site to teach the children and grandchildren of the government boarding schools. How many of these teachers will even understand this history?

  4. Any updates on this situation?


This is a public and often educational-read blog. Please use respect, honesty, and courtesy in your responses. Response is welcome, just keep it nice and clean!