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Cornelia “Cricket” Cooley

Eighth Grade Humanities

Cricket CooleyWhy are you an educator? Why do you love teaching?
I love history, and I love kids. I love seeing their curiosity percolate and stoking their enthusiasm for discussing ideas. Watching a kid learn how to effectively research anything that interests him or her is rather addictive, I think. It also makes me feel (more) confident in our country’s future, knowing that we are sending well-informed kids into the world who know how to think critically.

What makes the School of the Future experience different from others you’ve had?
I student taught at La Guardia, which was overwhelmingly big, and then taught at a tiny school in Chinatown, which was so small that teachers had to effectively administrate as well as teach, which I found exhausting. At School of the Future, it’s big enough and well-run enough so teachers spend more time and energy developing curriculum and focusing on the classroom, while still being small enough that teachers can join committees and have a real hand in school-wide decision making. The classes and the grade levels are small, so it feels, in many ways, like a private school in a public setting. We know the students well enough that we are better able to challenge them, and for the most part, I do think they live up to that challenge.

The student population is the other reason I really love it. The school is far more diverse in every sense than the other schools I have taught in, so the kids and teachers really can learn from each others’ experiences. It is hard to push critical thinking and teach alternative perspectives in homogeneous environments. SOF is anything but homogeneous!

What other activities/programs (at SOF or outside of the school) are you involved with?
I am a member of various Brooklyn-based coops! I am a fan of anything historical and spend my free time dragging friends and family to every old thing I can see. Nothing excites me more than seeing palimpsests on the sides of buildings and researching what used to be there at different points in history. I love traveling.

What is your advice to aspiring teachers?
Teaching is not for the faint of heart! Make sure you love your subject, love kids, and are prepared for a mediocre pay check. You will always be tired, there will always be more work to do, and you will never feel like you did it well enough, but you will be blown away by how much you learn from and are inspired by your students and colleagues. You are making a real difference! There is a real satisfaction at the end of the day that you have been challenged on all fronts and survived it.

Practically speaking, your first year will be like being trapped in a crazy video game that does not relent, but do not give up! A firm, enthusiastic presence is key, even when you are secretly terrified. Most of all, when all seems bleak, observe your colleagues and ask their advice. Make good use of your staff developers; I know mine saved me from despair my first few years teaching. I also suggest taking long naps after school before attempting to plan lessons.

Why do you like working at SOF?
I am constantly blown away by my colleagues’ intelligence and commitment. The kids are funny, smart, and open-minded—and only grow more so during their time here. After ten years teaching at SOF, and fifteen years teaching in total, I am still excited to come here each day to see what will unfurl. On an aesthetic level, I love all the old details of the building and knowing I am teaching in the same room as another teacher did in 1917 and 1954. How cool is that?