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Born and raised in the South Bronx, I have experienced the struggles children face when obtaining an adequate education. As a child, my worries consisted of where my next meal was coming from, how the rent was going to be paid or how my family was going to keep the lights on. Race, neighborhood, and family economic status has defined many of us within the educational system for as long as can be remembered. Schools attended were underfunded and understaffed. There were never enough textbooks for each student. Classrooms were packed and teachers at times were more frustrated than the students. The streets were filled with crime and when you left your apartment you prayed you returned unharmed that night. Children like myself who are raised in urban high-need communities are faced with an overwhelming amount of emotional, social challenges, health and safety issues.
It was not until I entered elementary school that I was introduced to teachers and administrators who changed my outlook on life and showed me all the endless possibilities school had to offer. It was taught that life had value and students had a voice that needed to be heard. The school principal and teachers made a point to greet every student at the door each morning and call them by name. They built relationships with students. Teachers were eager to get to know their students on a personal and educational level to identify their needs. They kept students’ needs and wants in mind when creating lessons and activities so that every need was addressed during instruction. They aimed to do and be better educators for students, so they were able to grow academically while also learning to be their best self. Students looked forward to each day, they felt wanted, accepted, but most of all they could leave their worries at the door and focus on their education.
As we engage our students in dialogue, we learn about their needs, working
habits, interests, and talents. We gain important ideas from them about how
to build our lessons and plan for their individual progress. Finally, as we
acquire knowledge about our students’ needs and realize how much more
than the standard curriculum is needed, we are inspired to increase
our own competence (Noddings, 2005, 4).
In my experience, an ideal teacher is one I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing. My teachers were educators who left their bias at the door. They were compassionate and empathetic. They built relationships and listened to the needs and learning styles of students and considered them when planning lessons and activities. They made their classrooms inviting and a safe space for their students. An ideal teacher is an effective leader who guides their students to excel academically. They are problem solvers who do not let limitations affect the quality of education they give to each student. They are someone who can identify their students’ strengths and weaknesses and help to push them to new highs without making it feel like work at all. Someone who inspires others (teachers and students) and makes learning fun. I was given the chance to experience the amazing talents and devotion of an ideal teacher and the feeling is like no other.
As an educator, I can not help but model the teachers who came before me that made a difference in my educational career. I see myself challenging the education system. In my second year of teaching, I find myself questioning everything. I see things that I know do not help my students grow academically or prepare them to enter the real world. A world that is harsher than their growing minds can imagine. I have students who are unable to read and write at their grade levels and have given up all together. They have no one to be their advocate. As an educator I find myself stepping up and being the voice they never had.
The students we teach are larger than life and even more complex.
To see them clearly and see them whole, and respond to them wisely
in the moment, requires a fusion of Freud and Solomon that few
of us achieve.” (Palmer, 1997, 1)
As a teacher I am my students’ role model, family, friend, mentor and at times their only escape. I wear many different hats on a daily basis. I pride myself on being my students’ equal and not shaming them for their misfortunes. I grew up in the same situations they are being subjected to now and I want them to understand that they too can become anything they put their mind to in life even with all of their shortcomings. At times I am the only face they see all day due to their non-existent parents. I am an educator who is eager to learn more in order to broaden the horizon of my students’ minds. I want to introduce them to things they wouldn’t normally be exposed to due to the neighborhoods and communities they come from. Not only do I want to teach them but I want to grow with them. I want them to educate me and help me grow as an educator. I want to explore education and dive into skills with my students and show them education has no limits.