This is a long overdue blog about my experience as a first year corps member in Miami. Yep, it’s already December and I’m halfway through my first year of 10th grade Geometry. This next week will be my last week of teaching in 2012 before I go back to Los Angeles to spend the winter holidays with my loved ones.
So why start a blog now? Well, I write a lot. My bookcase is lined with journals dating back to the 2nd grade. But something about publishing my thoughts and feelings online frightens me. I’ve had many a blogs before–travel blogs, DIY blogs, random blogs about random thoughts. Somehow, I couldn’t bring myself to write a blog about teaching. I don’t know why. Maybe because there’s just too much to process every single emotion, thought, experience I go through every single day inside Room 212. But I’ve come to realize that though it is a lot to debrief from, that’s the only way I will ever learn. Though this blog will not be glamourous, nor will it make sense at times, I hope that it gives you some insight into my heart.
Let’s go back to why I joined Teach For America.
To be honest, though I wrote a million essays on why I wanted to be a part of TFA, it wasn’t very clear to me when I applied. And when I got in, I almost regretted having accepted the offer. My first impression of TFA was that these people have seen “Stand and Deliver” way too many times. Though I appreciated their enthusiasm, it seemed all too unrealistically optimistic. These wide-eyed kids fresh out of college were just so ready to change the world, one student at a time (and yes, I call them kids even though I’m only 1 year their senior). They were idealistic to say the least.
I on the other hand, though some what of an idealist, am more realistic, which made me wonder if TFA was right for me. All I knew was that I wanted to influence and motivate people. I had never seriously thought about teaching. For all I know, I didn’t really like kids. Ok, that sounds mean. It’s not that I don’t like them, I just don’t think I have enough patience. But looking back at all the volunteer, internship, projects I have ever done, I’ve always worked with kids.
That really confounded me. And it basically led to a mini-breakdown. (Hahah…No, but seriously.) Which made me dig through all my intentions and re-analyze my purpose. Well, for one, it’s definitely not because I think they are cute. Two, I don’t really like conventional teaching. Three, I’m too mean to be a teacher…ok, maybe I really shouldn’t be a teacher.
So halfway through the year, I finally understand why I teach.
Teaching isn’t really about teaching in the academic sense. Rather, the major part of teaching is the investing in individuals. The inspiring, the influencing. And the reason I’ve always been so drawn to children is that children are the ones who have the most potential to develop. Not just academically, but personally. I want to work with children is to develop and empower individuals to be the best they can be so they can go on and lead others. And it just so happens that the quickest way to influence 165 individuals at a time is to be stuck in a classroom with them for 90 minutes every day. Teaching, is just an instrument or tool for me to really be able to invest in the lives of these individuals.
That’s why I’m a teacher.
The more I’m in the classroom, the more I see how my students have been influenced by low expectations. Out of my 165 students, I can maybe count on my fingers the few who actually believe in their own potential. I see how the poverty mindset is affecting and taking their futures away from them. I see firsthand the fear of failure, self-destruction, and learned helplessness. I see my students make decisions that through them back into a cycle.
This is why I am a teacher. To combat this false way of thinking. To show them that the only thing that is stopping them is themselves and their fear of being something more. To believe in them so that they can believe in themselves. To tell them that they way they approach difficult problems in math reflects the way they approach difficult problems in life. To tell them everyday that giving up is not an option because that’s my expectation. To hold them to their best standards everyday so that once their best becomes their normal, can they be better.
That’s why I teach.