Wednesday, April 5

If I don't make money, I want to make a difference.

The good news: I'm going to be reading at the BOWERY POETRY CLUB, with my workshop friends. We're going to do conceptual readings, nonconceptual readings, and admission is free (although you do have to buy a drink, it can be a coca-cola, so no age restrictions either). I'll send out an email to people, but this is going to be great thing to write down now. It's at:

MAY 2nd, 4:30-6:00 PM.
@The Bowery Poetry Club, on the west side of the street between Bleecker and 2nd.

Oh Glaucoma! You inspire me, too. Send in by alert reader my dad (He's the one in the middle, with the matrix shades). He was recently in Belgium on a business trip, and it seems he managed to do some biking. There were some pretty serious biker kids there, apparently. Who knew?

I have been hanging out with Molly's folks recently, as they are in this week. They served a feast of pierogis on Sunday, which was chalk-full of delicious. Even Odin was stuffed to the gills, believe you me. We all had lunch today, actually--and the meal turned into a "Simon's resume and essay for the teaching fellows proofreading" session. I am forever grateful. Sometimes you have it all together and the right people are just there (in this instance, meeting you for lunch at McSorley's), willing to help you make things shine.

So! I am uber excited about helping high-need schools, and I think I need a kind of transition between college and careerland--some place to slow down and think. I have Graduate school and a great many things to consider. Besides, I love working with kids. Lights of my life, I tell ya. Here's the essay, in case you're interested. I made it all small n stuff so it wouldn't take up too much space, so maybe you want to make it bigger. The questions (in my own words) were:
  1. Why do you want to become a teacher?
  2. How do you plan to bring your previous experience to a teaching job?
  3. Many New York City Teaching Fellows are placed in high-need schools. How do you feel about this?

I want to become a teacher because interacting with secondary and primary school students fills me with energy and inspiration. Every school at which I have observed or taught has shown me that teaching is an intense creative challenge that requires a fresh perspective every day. As a writer, reader, and editor at NYU and other institutions, my job has always been to find ways to successfully translate one discourse into another. That is what teaching is for me, ultimately—a fantastically inspiring task of translation. How can I tell a supervisor or professor what I know in a language both of us can understand? How do I tell a Foundation Board that my group needs grant funding to organize a project, and that we have the same goals? How can I explain why identifying pronouns or equidistant points correctly is important? I am enthralled by answering questions like these, and being a teacher would allow me to do so every day. Teaching offers exactly what I want most in daily life and a career—the challenge of solving problems creatively, and a chance to interact with students in a structured environment.
As a Fellow, I intend to use all of my previous experiences in education and occupation to ensure that my students are engaged and performing beyond expectations. My search to find the job that best suits me has taken me through many different working and writing environments, and my knowledge of what it takes to develop skills for a career will be crucial in an English, ESL, or math class. My work as a development coordinator, grant writer, and copy writer has taught me that the right language and personality are essential in “selling” an argument, product, and especially oneself. Students in high school need help presenting themselves to colleges or prospective employers, and, knowing first-hand how discouraging it can be to organize these presentations, I would like nothing better than to help students in especially high-need areas.
I spent seven months in an eighth grade classroom in MS 143 in the
Bronx, teaching math and grammar to ESL and under-achieving students. I learned more about effective teaching and professionalism at this job than I have in any class. The challenge was finding a balance between being a fun and caring educator who knows how to speak a language students understand, and earning the respect I needed from those students to speak that language to them. In teaching at MS 143, I realized that I can use Spongebob Squarepants or X-Box video game references in as many grammar lessons as I choose, but that does not guarantee an accessible lesson that students are willing to learn from. I found success and inspiration when I designed a student-driven, hour-long math project which tracked and organized data about hours students spent watching TV and videogames among my students in order to teach mean, median and mode. They remembered the experience and content for review lessons. Because I presented the project as a serious effort to learn more about my students and earn their respect, they became active learners.
Teaching in a high-need school is extremely important to me. I crave the diversity and the exhausting challenge that such a school environment provides. Also, I believe schools are called high-need for a reason—they do not want help, they need it. I encountered great many high-need students and their families when I visited
New Orleans to do volunteer work this semester. While gutting and cleaning Martin Luther King Jr. high school, a former high-need school which had been left to rot for three months after Hurricane Katrina, we heard dozens of community members testify to the press and media how their children were suffering because FEMA did not reconstitute the school. Some were in tears; some were brave. As I worked with twelve other volunteers to push a soggy grand piano out the doors of the school into the trash, I knew that if I wanted to be a teacher, I would not let myself go where I was not working with students that truly needed help. I realize that New Orleans was an exceptional environment, but I know that work with high need schools is the most valuable work that I can do for others and myself.
I was not raised and educated in a high-need school environment and will be the first to admit the gap in life experience between myself any student who is. But observing and teaching in high-need schools has taught me that academic performance and a desire to learn does not come from having a teacher who is a peer. It comes from having a teacher who respects and is respected by his or her students. I firmly believe that learning and interacting with a teacher who comes from outside the student’s culture is just as valuable as working with a teacher of a familiar race, age, or culture. As a student, I have found my most valuable and empowering experiences to be broadening ones. As a teacher for the New York City Teaching Fellowship, I am absolutely certain that I can bring this message to the high-need students of
New York City schools.

Talk to you soon! Lots of pictures of my sister horse-back riding next to midgets, and in general, of everyone having a great time. Even me, as I ride the buckin' bronco of senioritis in to the John Sextonless sunset. Hope them Injuns in the working world know how to make a cup o' coffay.

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