Tuesday, March 4, 2008

How do I politely decline the offer from my back-up?

Today's mail brought the acceptance letter from my university's masters program in teaching so I now have two perfectly good options for getting into teaching. I decided long ago that if I got into both, I'd opt for Teach for America. It's a better fit for many reasons. TFA offers the opportunity to dive in and begin trying to make real change right away. The support system for beginning teachers sounds great, and the program is designed to facilitate a smooth transition to graduate school if I eventually choose to get a Ph.D. in physics. That's important because, although I am certain any career path I might choose will involve some teaching, I'm not yet sure I want to teach secondary school forever. Part of my heart still belongs to research.

I'm not sure how to tell the director of the teaching program at my school that I won't be participating. Most of the students who apply are very certain that it is what they want to do if admitted, and there doesn't seem to be any protocol for accepting or declining the offer. The director seems to operate on the assumption that if you jump through all of the hoops and get in, you'll enroll. He has also said some fairly disparaging things about alternative licensure programs.

This requires tact. I'm very grateful for the offer, and if things had gone differently, I think I would have been very happy in the masters program. Clearly, I don't want to burn any bridges. Should I send the director a letter or email, telephone him, or should I stop by his office? At some point I have to go pick up my portfolio. Any thoughts on how to handle this from you more experienced folk?


A said...

I'd tell the director and send a letter to the graduate offices of the education department / graduate school.

I did a similar thing when I decided to get my masters in education instead of statistics. If you explain what your said in your post, I can't imagine there would be any issues.

I still catch flack from my statistics professors but it's in good faith. Some real weird bonds / friendships happen in research think tanks.

Anonymous said...

First, congratulations on the TFA! I am not surprised that you made the cut.

I'm sure that you can tactfully turn down the offer--i have no experience with academia stuff so no advice here.

plonkee said...

Send a letter, and be business-like about it. Say you have decided to pursue other opportunities in the immediate future.

Although there may not be any obvious method of declining, you can be sure a proportion of people do so every year. It's not the end of the world for them, or you.

Mary Sue said...

Send a polite letter. If your director has half a decent teaching bone in his/her body, they know TFA kicks major booty.

DogAteMyFinances said...

Projects like TFA/Peace Corps/the military are respected by faculty, and people in general as a higher calling.

If you're really concerned, just stop by and say you felt called to go into TFA, and you might be back for a masters later. It's the truth.