From the Yard to the Classroom

Harvard students should continue choosing careers in teaching after graduation

A great teacher is invaluable to a student’s education. At Harvard, we are privileged to be taught by world-renowned professors—the leaders in their fields—and as students we are encouraged to explore our interests and pursue the passions that our teachers excite in us. After graduating, we have the opportunity to share what we have learned and apply it in classrooms with new enthusiasm and perspective. Harvard students are already keen to this trend. Two hundred and ninety-three seniors in the 2010 graduating class, nearly 17 percent, applied to Teach for America, one of a number of teaching programs offered to recent college graduates. Harvard students should continue this new trend of demonstrating a commitment to educating others.

Programs like Teach for America and the Harvard Undergraduate Teacher Education Program offer recent graduates a unique opportunity to get a firsthand look into the American education system as well as providing students in low-income areas with the chance to have a fresh and motivated instructor. While these programs are usually only two years long, they give recent graduates a feeling for what life would be like inside the classroom, which can help them decide if this type of work would suit them in the long run.

Harvard had more graduates than ever before apply to TFA in 2009 and yielded the greatest percentage of TFA hires out of all colleges in the country. This attitude toward teaching should be commended and maintained in the future, as America has a clearly demonstrated need for additional qualified instructors. For those international students who wish to address educational disparities and inequities in their home countries, they can give back some of what their Harvard education has given them by joining teaching programs around the world.

First-hand teaching experience out of college has sparked a desire in many graduates to devote careers to helping improve educational inequity, starting with the recruitment and retention of passionate, quality teachers. Esteemed professionals in the education sector who began with Teach for America include Michelle A. Rhee, Chancellor of the District of Columbia Schools, who was a member of the Baltimore ’92 corps, and Chris Barbic, founder of YES College Preparatory Schools who was a Houston ’92 corps member.

Although the grim job market and the chance to add a program like TFA to a resume may tempt graduating seniors to pursue an interim career in teaching, this job exploration should still be encouraged, regardless of the motives behind the application. We hope that students will continue to consider it viable post-graduation employment even when the job market improves.


For those students who do not wish to dedicate two years to teaching after college, possibly because they are unsure of what the experience will entail, opportunities for teaching while still in college abound. The Phillips Brooks House Association offers undergraduates numerous ways to get experience in the classroom with programs in after school tutoring, and many others. Students can teach in classrooms all over the world during the summer or can teach at-risk children in inner-city schools through PBHA’s Summer Urban Program.

Whether or not Harvard students are interested in teaching as a career, experience in the classroom and the opportunity to engage kids provides both a service to underprivileged children and a learning experience to new teachers themselves. While the saying may go, “Those who can’t do, teach,” Harvard students are proving just the opposite. “Those who can do, teach,” and hopefully that trend is here to stay.