Columbia Heights Education Campus, 11th Grade AP Literature, Teacher for 3 years
Why did you become a teacher?
I honestly believe that teaching is the first and only impact on our future. I have a direct impact on kids’ lives, so I am an aunt, a big sister, a counselor, a mom, not just a teacher. I get to have the close relationships with kids that will ultimately shape what society becomes.
Who was your favorite teacher and why?
It was Hattie Allen. She was my second grade teacher, and the first teacher that really helped me to see my potential. She was challenging, she took no mess at all, and she made me truly work. It was the first time I was pushed, and I liked it. It made me want to go further, not take the easy way out.
She wouldn’t accept any excuses. I grew up in a low-income environment, and “No Excuses” was just everywhere: on her board, all around the room, out of her mouth. It shaped who I am. Now as a teacher, I exhaust all measures, telling my students there are multiple ways to skin a cat; you just have to learn the way it works for you and keep going. You have to work for what you want, and she taught me this.
She also made the curriculum rigorous. I was learning words that were two or three grade levels above where I was placed. She demanded so much of us and it was what made her successful.
Three adjectives that describe your job:
Exhilarating, challenging, new.
What is one thing that you wish someone had told you when you were a first year teacher?
You can’t always teach your kids the way you were taught. So many times we want to teach people the way we learned it, and it makes us closed-minded. If you learn to add a certain way, then you may expect others to learn that way. I wish people had told me this. I quickly figured it out when the students told me.
“We can’t learn it that way” they would tell me. “We are not you.” You have to explore new options and ideas, and know who you are teaching. Gender, demographics, age, their community, all of it plays a part in education and how you deliver your lesson.
What's one thing your students have taught you about being a better teacher?
It is knowing when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em. I can walk into a class and be completely prepared for it. But part of being a teacher is knowing where my kids are. I may have spent 6 hours planning that lesson, but if my kids aren’t ready for it, it is a moment I need to fold ‘em and take another way.
There are other times I just need to stick to my guns and say, “You didn’t do your homework,” and we have to go on.
That is something my students have taught me, and it comes along a little more each year. The more you learn who your students are, the easier it is to identify what you need to do in this situation every time. You have to know when it is a genuine misconception and when they are just pulling your leg!
Tell a little about a time when a student's accomplishments completely exceeded your expectations. Or, tell a little about a time when you were inspired by a student.
It is really a whole group of students. We have a lot of English Language Learners in our school. It is very inspiring to see kids who have been in the country for only two or three years sitting in my AP Literature class, understanding the concepts, understanding Shakespeare, Their Eyes Were Watching God. Even if they struggle with it, they want to do well and to succeed.
A moment of inspiration would have to be in my class as a whole, when we were reading Shakespeare’s Othello. At first I was apprehensive, thinking this is a difficult pick, asking of myself “Are they really prepared?” I mean, some don’t read this until college.
But I tried it anyway. They struggled in the first two days, but by the third day they were acting it out and loving it! They were discussing the characters, they just got it. It inspired me to develop curriculums that are rigorous. Not to just create ones that say okay, you have completed the 11th grade, but more. Kids can really meet the challenge.
Why is teaching an incredibly important job?
[laughs]. Well…the most repetitive answer probably...it is because of teachers that all other professions exist. We all needed a teacher. Whatever the case may be, there is a teacher behind every profession and person.
It is teachers who will determine where our country goes, how the economy will be in the next ten years. It is all contingent on how well we do our jobs as teachers. If we don’t teach them how to compete in a global society, we will set ourselves up for failure.
Teaching impacts the entire country. Not just my kids and their families. If all of my kids decide not to go to college, what happens to social security? But if they all decide to become doctors, what does that say for medicine and the curing of diseases? Teaching is the development of the country as a whole, and the path for tomorrow. It is the one profession that determines our future. Our future. Not just the kids, but everyone.
I love my job. I really do.
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