Tuesday, May 26, 2009

"Why Do You Want to be a Teacher"

So today, I had to submit my application to The Department of Education's hiring website. (As part of the teaching fellow program, fellows are required to find their own positions within the public school system. Just one more thing to worry about right?) I realized the question the DOE asked was quite similar to one of the questions asked by the teaching fellows in my initial application for the program: "Why do you want to be a teacher?"

Because my computer died on me a couple of months back, I did not have access to my original essay, and deiced to call the Teaching Fellow office to see if they could send me a copy. Eric said that due to my outgoing demeanor on the phone, I could probably get a copy sent to me, and sure enough i did! Here is my articulate response to wanting to be teacher.

1. Please provide an essay of between 400 and 600 words that addresses ALL of the following questions:

Why do you want to be a teacher? What experiences have led you to want to teach in a high-need school in New York City?

If applicable, please include in your response any volunteer or employment experience working with children and/or young adults in high-need communities.

I recently read somewhere that teaching is more than just a job; it’s a calling. This calling came to me this past summer while volunteering in hurricane ravished New Orleans. I originally believed I would be staying in New Orleans for just a few days, getting my hands dirty and helping with rebuilding efforts. After meeting and interacting with neighborhood children, I deiced to stay in New Orleans for over 3 months, volunteering my services to help the cities youngest victims. During my time in the “Big Easy”, I organized sports and educational after school activities for children of all ages. I spent all my time with the children of the community, and although I knew I wanted children to be the focus of my professional career, I was still somewhat unsure that teaching was the area in which I could make the largest impact on the lives of children who needed a helping hand the most. Yet, one day, while weeding a garden with a 9 year old African American boy name Edward, I realized that teaching was my calling, and what I wanted to do with my life.

I was explaining to Edward about the easy dispersal of weed seeds and why they seem to grow everywhere where he lives. In the midst of my explanation, Edward looked up at me and said “Sarah, why are white people so much smarter than black people?” Stunned and devastated by his question, I frantically tried to find the right words to comfort Edward. All his life, Edward has been surrounded by older brothers and cousins who drop out of school, education facilities that fail to provide an adequate learning atmosphere, and teachers who are overwhelmed with problems as they try to teach and inspire urban at-risk populations. This question made sense to Edward, for all the “white people” he knew were not gang bangers or drug dealers that infiltrated his street, but where the volunteers in his community, the teachers at his school, and the “important people” he had come to know from television. I found myself understanding why Edward thought this, and deiced by committing myself to educating urban youth as a teacher, I could show Edward, and kids just like him, that they ALL have the ability to be smart and successful, and live happy and healthy futures.

Once children reach school age, in most cases, they start spending more time with their teachers than with their parents. This means that teachers aren’t just imparting an education; they’re affecting the emotional, intellectual, and social development of each student they encounter. The poet William Butler Yeats once said, “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” And, indeed, by giving and inspiring with kids the knowledge and skills they need to succeed as adults, by urging them to pursue their dreams, and by impressing on them the joy that comes from a lifetime of learning, as a teacher I will be virtually limitless in my capacity to touch lives, and thusly has showed me that I want to become a teacher.

I moved to New York City this last fall. Spending the majority of my time on the West Coast, living in New York is a big and exciting change in my life. After learning more about the education system of New York, I know I would make a great addition to the countless other hardworking teachers who educate, inspire, and help change the lives of New York’s youngest residents.

I had such a nice weekend! It was beautiful and spent most of it at the park with my handsome man, eating carbonated grapes (it was so cool, we carbonated our own grapes! they were delicious and you could feel the fizzyness when you held them in your hand!), people/little kid watching, baseball (i sprained my middle finger, but was still pretty good), relaxing, and just enjoying being alive!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Evan and Strawberries

Today I met a little boy on the Subway. His name was Evan and he was five years old. He as all decked out in Roca Wear (sp?) clothes (he told me they were all Roca Wear) ; a nice polo shirt, blue jeans, a baseball cap and brand new Nikes. Trying to make him feel like a 'big boy' I jokingly asked him if he could drive. He responded with an immediate yes, not only does he drive, but he has his drivers license, a red car and that it goes REALLY fast. I asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up, and he said a fireman because they are heroes. Once my stop came, I said goodbye to Evan and told him to be a good boy for his daddy (who he said was "big Evan"). As I walked up the stairs, I noticed that Evan had not yet stoped waving goodbye to me through the train window. My new friend Evan made my day :)

I walked through the prospect park farmers market, where I ate the most delecious strawberry of my life, and made my way into the park this afternoon. Hundreds of people were there today, enjoying the sunshine, the beautiful weather and eachother. I got some great pictures. I think my "people watching" highlight today was a dad trying/teaching his little girl to do cartwheels. They seemed to be having so much fun together.

My day was also filled with friends! I said good-bye for now to a great friend friend who is taking an adventure across the country (Francis), talked to 4 friends (Dan, Dani, Lucy, and Pamela) that I have not talked to WAY too long, made a new friend on the subway (Evan), and get to see my great friend tomorrow for the first time in three weeks! (Eric)

I am so blessed for the friendships I have , and the joy other people bring me. The daily interaction of my life with others makes my world so beautiful!

1 week and counting until I will officially be a student again! A grad student this time. Pretty nervous (2 years without studying seems to have put me a little far behind). But so stoked too!

Time to sleep now. Making an early (7:00am) trek to JFK :)

Thursday, May 21, 2009


One of the best things about being out on the east coast is experiencing the seasons. Though southern California rarely disappointed on the weather front, I could never really tell when in fact the season were changing.

Anyways, Spring (and I capitalize to signify how wonderful it is) is in full spring here in New York, and its absolutely beautiful. It seems as though Spring is contagious, for everyone seems to have a little extra "spring" in their steps the last few weeks.

Below are some pictures I took to highlight the beauty that is Spring in Prospect Park, Brooklyn.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Start

Its official. I have jumped on the blogging bandwagon.

Over the last year or so, my life has gone through many changes. Until very recently I have been questioning what I was going to do and where I was going to go as , dare I eve
n it say adult. Now here I am, sitting at my favorite coffee shop in Brooklyn, preparing for the start of "At-Risk Youth Teaching Training" thinking about how I got here. I guess it all starts with that ridiculous bus ride.

As most of you know, last April, while at the Coachella Music and Arts Festival, I spontaneously deiced (much to
my parents objection) to take a volunteer trip across the country with 150 strangers headed for New Orleans. The "Dirty Hands Caravan" was a coming together of social activists to promote and create good. Whether it was through the building of a house, the cleaning of a neighborhood, or the giving of a hug, this trip showed me that YES in fact, WE all CAN make a difference in the lives of others. The caravan stayed in NOLA for 3 days, yet I did not feel as though I was ready to leave, and deiced to stay and volunteer for what would be about 3 more months. During my time in NOLA, 6 other volunteers and I resided in Central City, the most notoriously dangerous neighborhood in all of New Orleans.

One would think 3 years after Hurricane Katrina, that a state, especially here in the United States, would be up and running again; providing its residents with the bare necessities of life. Yet this was not the case. My eyes were opened, and my heart ached for the condition
of this great American city. Try as I might to accomplish some sort of change, (I hung drywall, painted, demoed. planted, etc. etc.) I found that my talent really resided in working with the "at-risk" children of the neighborhood. I instantly became a friend, a mentor and "Auntie Sarah" to a dozen or so kids living in my neighborhood. They became my passion, and inevitably changed the course of my life. (The whole trip is being documented in a documentary film produced by Sean Penn, "The Dirty Hands Caravan", and is planed be released sometime this year,)

Due to some health issue, but mainly extreme exhaustion, I regrettably left NOLA late in the summer, and head back home to Thousand Oaks, CA. Although nothing is quite as comforting as being at home with my wonderful family, I quickly realized that I needed something vastly different then the Southern California culture I had grown up to know so well. I sold my car and my furniture, donated al
l my clothes, packed 2 suitcases and moved to New York City. (Constantly reminding myself "If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.")

Well let me tell you, the first 6 months in NYC were rough. It was FREEZING (why I deiced to move in the beginning of winter, I still have no idea), lonely and unfamiliar. I had trouble meeting people, finding my way around, and was constantly getting on the subway going in the opposite direction of my destination. I worked a couple of waitressing jobs to help make ends meet, blasted through my savings, and new I had to figure something out soon or it would be so long NYC.

I was riding the subway one day, when I saw an advertisement that said "Do you remember your third grade teachers name? (Mrs. Bladen) Who will remember yours?" This was a posting for The New York City Teaching Fellows, and accelerated teaching certification program in NYC, somewhat like Teach for America. I went home, got online and frantically put my application together in 2 days.

After 4 months of waiting, 7 hours of interviews, 20,000 other applicants and the end of winter, I was accepted into the program as a Secondary (6-9 grade) Earth Science Teacher, assigned to teach in an "at-risk" (Title 1) school in Brooklyn. The program also offers a subsidized master degree, and I will be receiving my Masters of Education from Brooklyn College over the next 2 years. I had found what I came here for.

The next few years are going to be like nothing I have ever experienced. I have been warned that first year teaching is one of the hardest things someone can do, and in fact only 1 in 3 teachers survives their first year teaching in the NYC public school system. Top off the difficulties of first year teaching a failing educational system, troubled students, and masters degree coursework...yeah its going to be a little rough. BUT....I have never been so excited for anything in my life. I feel that everything I have gone through, done, and seen through my short 24 years, was preparation for the next three, and my new place in the fellowship. I have been given the opportunity to teach. To give children, children who need it the most, the foundation and passion to achieve success. I cant really imagine anything more beautiful.

So...I deiced that now was as good a time as any to start my blog. Training for the fellowship starts next week, and although my journal really loves hearing about what I go through everyday, I thought my friends, family, and loved ones might as well. SO here, through "Daily Splendors", I will chronicle my life as a first year teacher, the trials and tribulations, the joy and tears, and inevitably the life changing experience that is ahead of me.

I love you all, and thanks for reading, and thanks for taking this ride with me!

Until later.....