Seventh Grade Math
Why are you an educator? Why do you love teaching?
An amalgam of factors led me to teaching. Many of these factors seem vague and difficult to explain. Was I meant to be a teacher? All four of my parents (I have two stepparents) are/were teachers. Was I subconsciously driven to become a teacher? I did some volunteer work with inner-city kids from Philadelphia in college and was unexpectedly changed by the experience. Or did I opportunistically jump into teaching to fill a developing emotional void created by my first profession? Thank you New York City Teaching Fellows. To give one answer to the original question (why are you an educator?) would put me at risk of being untruthfully precise, so I will refer you back to my first sentence.
I have never endeavored upon something so simultaneously challenging and rewarding as teaching. Designing and implementing a lesson that captivates, sustains, and expands the thinking of each student is a challenge I face as a math teacher. Nurturing and facilitating the emotional, social, and intellectual growth of each student is a challenge I face as an adolescent educator. When I consider the aggregate of these challenges, I am instantly overwhelmed by the enormity of the responsibilities of being a teacher. This sense is only heightened when I consider the indeterminate future of the geopolitical, economic, and environmental landscape of the world. The important and meaningful tasks of being an educator are one reason I love the profession; the other is because of the humanistic nature of the work. Teaching requires me to be physically, mentally, and emotionally “all in,” leaving no room for detachment. As a result, the work can be gut-wrenching. The personal satisfaction I derive from watching students leap out of their seats, screaming “I got it,” is matched in intensity only by the personal sadness I feel when a lesson falls flat or I can’t seem to break-through to a student. The labyrinthine emotional ups, downs, twists, and turns of a school year can make the roller coasters of Six Flags seem like scale models. Inspired by the confounding nature of the work, teaching fans the flames of self-reflection, adaptation, and personal growth. For that, I am thankful for the opportunity to teach.
What makes the School of the Future experience different from others you’ve had?
Contrasted with other school cultures I’ve experienced, School of the Future’s pervasive culture of creativity distinguishes it. Administration and staff work together to pursue creative solutions to complex problems, big and small. Teachers meet once-a-week in grade teams with administration to strategize over the minutia of day-to-day operations, while also being afforded ample opportunity to participate in small task forces to develop and incorporate new school initiatives. Knowing that I have a respected voice (in the community) helps inspire me to think creatively about any issues that arise.
Perhaps nowhere else is the culture of creativity at School of the Future evidenced more than through teacher pedagogy. Teachers here are pedagogical alchemists, not pedagogical prescriptivists. When I first started teaching at SOF, I was absolutely stunned by the creativity and quality of instruction. Teachers were doing things in the classroom I had never seen or heard about before. Certainly, these were not methods expounded upon in my graduate school textbooks or ones exhibited by teachers at my previous school. At first I was a sponge: absorbing “this” and soaking up “that” from my colleagues (thank you, Ben). Eventually, and imperceptibly, I began to develop a style of my own in the classroom. Because creativity is infectious, it becomes pervasive—“trickling down” from administration to teachers to students.
What other activities/programs (at SOF or outside of the school) are you involved with?
I co-coach the SOF varsity baseball team with Felix Shen. I live in Brooklyn, where I play a lot of street basketball. I grew up near the Adirondacks and love to return whenever possible to hike the mountains, swim and fish the lakes, and breathe the fresh air.
What is your advice to aspiring teachers?
Follow your passion into the classroom, but leave your ego in the hallway. Your first few years will more than likely be filled with frustrating setbacks and fleeting successes. Self-reflection and adaptation are essential survival tactics. (I kept a journal my first year and it was one of the few things that kept me sane.) Be open to change and experimentation within your instruction, but always hold tight to the techniques and methods that have been successful. Teaching is an apprenticeship profession so don’t hesitate to lean heavily on your colleagues for advice and support in the beginning (it’s expected).
Why do you like working at SOF?
I elaborated on many of the reasons for why I like working at SOF in my response to question #2, so I won’t pour on the redundancy. In short: I am honored to teach with such talented colleagues in a community that nurtures creativity and critical thinking.