CAMBRIDGE, MASS. — Across the United States,100 colleges participated in ``Teach for America Day'' last month. At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, Mass., 400 people attended the event. More than 100 fifth-graders from the city's school system came to participate in educational sessions with college students who are considering becoming teachers through the program.
Joice Himawan, an MIT graduate, is teaching the principle of lift to the young participants by helping them make and fly paper airplanes. ``I think it is very important to get recent college students involved in teaching,'' she says. ``They have something to give - they certainly know the subject matter, and they usually love it. Physics is a subject I love and it's fun to translate that interest by teaching young people.''
Mireille Naccache, an MIT freshman from Glenrose, Texas, hadn't thought of teaching after graduation until she heard about Teach for America. Her decision on whether to participate ``would depend on how it would affect my career. If companies would defer on hiring someone for two years so that they could devote that time to teaching, it would be very appealing,'' she says.
Laura Rottmann, a junior English major at Wellesley College, a women's college in Wellesley, Mass., finds it an attractive idea ``if you don't want to worry about what you are going to do straight out of school.''
Harvard University's version of Teach for America Day was on a smaller scale. About 35 fifth-graders came from a nearby elementary school to participate in classes on dance, improvisation, environmental issues, and international relations.
``The kids left saying, `You guys aren't teachers, you're like brothers and sisters,''' says Linda Rottenberg, a Harvard senior and Teach for America representative. ``They learned but they also had fun.''
For the prospective Teach for America participants, the day was more than a publicity drive. ``It was a chance for some of the applicants to get a real taste of teaching,'' says Ms. Rottenberg.
Javier Gonzalez, a graduate student in mechanical engineering at MIT and a native of Argentina, is impressed with the concept. ``I think it's a good program,'' he says, ``I wish they had something like that back home,'' he says, ``but there is a lot more freedom to do things like this here in the United States.''