Sunday, April 15

Letter of Intent

The following is my letter of intent written to Teach for America:

During my year as a Fulbright Teaching Assistant in Germany I learned that a country’s education system is not only closely intertwined with its culture, but also a reflection of its values.

I was placed in two high schools in an affluent suburb of Munich, one of the wealthiest cities in Germany. Later in the year I had the opportunity to visit a school in a small and economically struggling East German town. After a day of visiting classes there, it was clear that they had access to the same technology, their buildings were equally as up-to-date, and their teachers were equally as qualified as at my schools. The German education system is far from perfect; they struggle with many of the same issues we do in America, including integrating their growing immigrant population. But I saw that German children, regardless of their geographical location, had access to the same educational resources and were expected to meet the same academic standards.* Germans recognize that this equality is necessary in order to move toward a better and more unified nation. This experience made me wonder; what would an outsider think of American values if they were to visit a public school in a poor rural town or inner city? I hardly think that the American public school system portrays the values of freedom, equality, and inclusiveness we pride ourselves on.

I want to join Teach for America because I want our schools to be proof that we are a nation that values all our children, not just a privileged few, and recognizes that they will all play a part in the future of our country. I want to be one of many Americans to reach out and tell those children who have been ignored that they are important to us, to America, and to the world. I believe that I can begin to accomplish that in my two years as a corps member by setting high expectations for the kids in my classroom and working hard to provide them with the support and knowledge they need to reach those expectations.

Teaching abroad and returning to work for an education association has taught me a great deal about myself and my strengths and interests. I am passionate about education and plan to pursue a higher degree in a related field, but before I continue my studies I want to see first hand the impact that I can have on one school and one group of students. My experience in a classroom will make me more aware the issues that require the most attention and that I will be most able to impact in my future. German school children taught me more about German culture than I could have imagined and I believe that American school children will inspire and motivate me to take an active role in shaping the future values of America.

*Obviously this is an oversimplified comparison, a 250 word essay does not allow space for a discussion of the complex pros and cons of the German school system (This article discussed some of the major problems they are facing especially with immigrants.). My comparison is based only on the Gymnasiums (highest track college preparatory public high schools) that I saw in Munich and Greifswald. Money is spread equally among schools within each German state. Teachers are likewise assigned placements by the state. This means that there is very little disparity between same-track schools in different areas of Germany. Of course this equality cannot make up for the discrimination that exists in the tracking process , I discussed this issue in this post. (In that previous post I wrote that placement was determined based on grades and tests, I learned that that is is not entirely true, the ultimate decision on tracking is made by the parents with recommendations by teachers.)


Silke said...

Thank you Anne, for saying something so kind about the German educational system. We do have great problems at our schools, too, but I am very grateful that I got the chance to study in Germany. I did get a pretty good education and it didn't matter that our school was in a town that was dying out because we no longer do coal mining. It didn't matter that it was a small school in an industrial part of Germany. Being from a working class family, I did get a chance to study at a university because my small school prepared me well. Now that I got my Master's degree I can say, "I did it!" ANd I hope we will never change our system in that respect...

Anonymous said...

Hi there! I've been considering applying for TFA and googled "letter of intent," never expecting to stumble upon the blog of another Fulbright ETA to Germany named Anne. Weird. Anyway, if you don't mind my asking, or commenting on your post out of the blue, I was wondering how your experience as an ETA translated to your work for TFA.

Anne said...

I'd love to talk to you, Anne! You can get in touch with me- anne (dot) schwalbe (at) gmail (dot) com

brett said...

love to see this discussion! It’s great to see you all working through the issues and also, it’s great to see recommendations for testing. In the end, it’s what your actual users do and prefer that should be your biggest driver in making these decisions.

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madhu said...

Thank you Anne
You really very well written this article..
Letter of Intent

...garnet.terri... said...

With this Letter of Intent were you accepted into the program? I am looking into TFA again. . . the first time I was rejected. But, it was after I taught overseas that I felt compelled to teach at home. I wasnt in Germany but I had similar experiences.

Anne said...

Yes, I was accepted with this letter. I was also rejected when I first applied right out of college and accepted two years later, so I'd encourage you to apply again! Obviously a lot more than the application letter goes into the application process, definitely read the website and especially this page before applying: