Teach For All’s Wendy Kopp on Cultivating Leadership

I started Teach for America now 25 years ago.
And as you may know Teach for America recruits top recent college grads, young professionals,
people we believe are the US’s most promising future leaders and ask them to commit two
years to teach in high need urban and rural communities. The big idea is really to generate
a growing force of leaders who not only have an immediate impact during the two years they
initially commit but who end up working throughout their lives from inside of education, from
outside of it, at every level of policy to effect the fundamental kind of systemic changes
necessary to ultimately insure that all kids in our country fulfill their true potential. And I was thinking about nothing but trying
to get bigger and better in the US when it must have been about eight or nine years ago
there was something in the water. I started hearing from social entrepreneurs, 13 people
in a year’s time from India to Lebanon to Chile to the next place who were just absolutely
determine to bring this model to their context. To call upon India’s most promising future
leaders. Ask them to commit two years to teaching their highest need communities, invest in
their development as a long term force for change. So that’s how Teach for All came about.
We’re now seven years in. There are 33 and growing independent social enterprises really
in every region of the world who are working to essentially cultivate the leadership capacity
necessary to ultimately ensure again that all kids have the chance to fulfill their
true potential. Cultivating Leadership: Recruitment, Selection,
and Development This year Teach for India had 13,000 people
competing for about 500 spots. Teach for Pakistan had more than 1,000 people competing for 40
spots. And Enseña por Columbia had 2,400 folks competing for about 50 or 60 spots.
So aggressive recruitment on college campuses, surrounding these programs with an aura of
status and prestige. And at the same time asking folks to commit two years because for
the most talented recent college grads, the people who have the most other career options
who are under enormous pressure from their families and from society at large to use
their education to get on these career tracks that make a lot of money, et cetera. It’s
just everyone else is asking them to commit two years and these are folks with an inclination
to want to make a difference. They want to do this but they’re under so
much pressure that they can’t commit a whole lifetime to it. So asking them for two years
at the start enables these programs to pull in truly some of the most highly sought after
young leaders in their countries. Each of these programs has a very intensive selection
process. And they’re looking for leadership characteristics. For people who have taken
on big challenges, have persevered in the face of obstacles to reach big goals. People
who can influence and motivate others, who are strong problem solvers. People who will
work with a lot of respect and humility. So very intensive, not only recruitment processes,
but then selection processes.


  1. MeLexdy Author

    I dont like the effort the system puts to create leaders…

    I think it might affect young ppl into believing that everybody must be a leader. And when they realise that only few can become leaders they might get disapointed.

    My point.

    The real disadvantage of our society these days is that we cant cooperate with each other.

    We find  way more reasons to argue than to agree.

    And we are social beings, we are stronger in every way in numbers. The strongest man in the world cant change it alone.

    We are divided by other forces but we ve learned to divide our selfs too i fear..

  2. Pseudonym Author

    Ban the word "bossy", that's what I say. Too many helpess, poor little girls incapable of leadership, are being kept out of leadership roles, because they cave under the pressure of a single word.

    If we act bossy, and we ban "bossy", we can protect girls, thereby making them feel like they need to be protected and cannot stand up for themselves. Girls will be free to be the great leaders of tomorrow.

    We should get a sexy girl to be the face of this movement, maybe Rihanna?

  3. DoJo Petro Author

    Before we can teach really good leadership, we need to redefine the leadership paradigm we have.  Look at the leaders of the world.  What do you see?
    I see a lot of totalitarian dictators and psychopathic political power-players.  The world has too many self-serving narcissists who call themselves leaders—even "democratic" ones.

  4. Mike Roberts Author

    TfA is the Legal Aid of education; You send the greenest Teachers to the areas that need experience most and have them learn on the poor kids before moving on to the affluent areas, where the "clients" (Parents) demand better results.


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