During the four years that I pursued an undergraduate degree in Information Technology, I learned that every fine-tuned machine has a good foundation. I discovered that no computer can successfully function without a motherboard as its foundation. Similarly, through my life experience, I have found that no individual can successfully function without a sound education as his or her foundation. Fortunately, I was raised by parents with similar educational philosophies. As children, my sister and I were very clear about our parents’ academic expectations of us. My father in particular, was very adamant when he exclaimed, “On your list of priorities, education should be number one!” Thus, I constantly attempt to instill similar values in my students.
Every true educator considers teaching a calling, not a job. In my earlier years, the call to become an educator was one that I never planned on receiving. As an adolescent, I was extremely intrigued with technology. One of my favorite pastimes was taking apart any and every electronic device I could get my hands on. I just wanted to figure out its inner workings. Consequently, immediately after receiving my bachelor’s degree, I embarked on a career as a software engineer.
Transitioning from one career to another is seen by many as an arduous task. When I decided to shift to teaching, I thought, “If I can be successful as an engineer, then there is no job that I cannot conquer.” After nearly four short years as an educator, my views have changed. I now exclaim with certainty, “If I can successfully educate America’s urban adolescents, then I can conquer all!” As an educator, I feel a sense of purpose and passion that I have experienced with no other career.
Currently, I am a READ 180 teacher for grades 8 through 10 at a New York City school. Many of our vivacious students reside within an economically disadvantaged neighborhood and are avidly using education as a means of escaping their situation. Each year, my classroom is full of students with a wide range of interests and abilities. We are extremely fortunate to have a principal who has the students’ best interests at heart and who attempts to provide as many resources as possible to her teachers. Because of this, my classroom contains the technological devices necessary to motivate both my students and myself.
In my opinion, "good teaching" begins with knowing your students well. Not only must we be aware of the general likes and dislikes of our students, but it is imperative that we try to keep in mind each of their learning styles as we plan lessons and projects. Nonetheless, most educators would agree that a certain percentage of teaching is acting. A good actor can quickly engage his or her audience and sustain their interest throughout a given performance. Similarly, teachers need a "hook" to continuously engage their students. My "hook" is appropriate use of technology. In this, the age of information, our lives revolve around technology — and the students love it! What better tool is there to capture the attention and interests of urban adolescents?
On a recent episode of Saturday Night Live, the cast performed a parody in which a male in his late 20s was asked, “What did you learn in high school?” After a brief pause, he summed up his four-year high school learning experience in five seconds! The studio audience was hysterical with laughter. But after a quick chuckle, I thought to myself, “Is this the response that my students will give ten years from now? How can I ensure that my students’ understanding of the content will endure?” I am not sure if there is a direct answer to that question. What I do know is that in my four years as an educator, there have not been many constants. Every year I have greeted a new group of students, taught in a new classroom, and utilized new instructional techniques and tools. However, one fact has remained constant: my students are considerably more engaged in the content when they are involved in it and can see how it is applicable to real life. By connecting my content to the real world, I am increasing the likelihood of my students’ understanding enduring.
I take each school day as an opportunity to start anew. Each class period is an opportunity to clarify misconceptions and delve deeper into the minds of my critical thinkers. Though technology was my first love, I have found a greater purpose in life. I am fated to engineer more than simple software packages — it is my place to engineer the lives of America’s youth.