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Learning from Counternarratives in Teach For America

Moving from Idealism Towards Hope


Sarah Matsui

Grounded in the belief that hope comes from a place of reality, not necessarily popular ideology, this book explores the gap between designated and actual narratives within Teach For America. TFA founder Wendy Kopp stated that there is «nothing elusive» about successful teaching; people simply need to «work hard» and be «disciplined». Taking an inquiry stance, Sarah Matsui surveyed and interviewed 26 of her fellow corps members in the Greater Philadelphia region. Their counternarratives collectively problematize this standard reform rhetoric. Many are working hard, yet their stories and challenges are complex, elusive, and commonly self-described with the words «shame», «failure», and «isolating». Corps members reported experiencing new levels of fatigue, alcohol dependency, depression, and trauma during their two-year service commitment with TFA. Learning from Counternarratives in Teach For America utilizes multiple frameworks to analyze the depth and range of corps members’ experiences. Relevant to helping professionals and people working to address constructed systems of inequity, this book ultimately advocates for a more honest, contextualized, and egalitarian approach to reform – one that openly addresses both individual and systemic realities.
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Matsui, Sarah. Learning from counternarratives in Teach For America: moving from idealism towards hope / Sarah Matsui. pages cm. — (Counterpoints: Studies in the Postmodern Theory of Education; v. 472) Includes bibliographical references and index. 1. Teach for America (Project)—Evaluation. 2. Teachers—Training of—United States— Evaluation. 3. Teaching—United States. 4. Education, Urban—United States. 5. Education, Rural—United States. 6. Educational equalization—United States. I. Title. LB1715.M3425 370.71’1—dc23 2015008447 ISBN 978-1-4331-2813-4 (hardcover) ISBN 978-1-4331-2812-7 (paperback) ISBN 978-1-4539-1591-2 (e-book) ISSN 1058-1634

Bibliographic information published by Die Deutsche Nationalbibliothek. Die Deutsche Nationalbibliothek lists this publication in the “Deutsche Nationalbibliografie”; detailed bibliographic data are available on the Internet at

© 2015 Peter Lang Publishing, Inc., New York 29 Broadway, 18th floor, New York, NY 10006

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