I am wondering this: What do adcoms think about our leaving the teaching profession? Not many people get a JD and return to the classroom. Our applications serve as a symbol of the poor teacher-retention rates across this country. We might have been hard-working, bright-eyed, hopeful champions of education for two years here, five years there, but now we are all in hot pursuit of a new career. (I say this simply to start a discussion, as I personally feel that if you spend any amount of time teaching in high-needs public schools, you are forever affected by your experiences. Just wanted to give you guys something to argue about. )
I think you raise an excellent point. After doing two years with TFA in Camden, I knew I needed to get out. Just for sanity's sake. Now, I'm teaching at an excellent charter school for low-income students and it's a completely different experience. I absolutely love 90% of the time I spend in the classroom (minus the "Who threw this?" lines of questioning that inevitably occur in middle school classrooms), but I still feel the need to do something different with my life. I just don't see myself being as fulfilled as I am now when I am say, 40. I am definitely going into public interest law and I want to focus on issues of educational equality. But do I sometimes feel a little guilty about this? Yes. And do I still believe that a good teacher (TFA or otherwise) is one of the most important resources this country has? Yes.
In terms of the TFA debate in general, I think people are right that TFA is headlined for its selectivity. Other effective teachers in low-income teachers deserve the same recognition, and I hope they get it. I also agree that TFA is way below Iraq war veteran but certainly way above some other "softs." Anyone who has taught in/spent an extended period of time in low-income schools gets certain things about this country. If you haven't seen it firsthand, it's difficult to explain. But the people who have this experience and dedication deserve a boost.