In 11th grade, I had a radical American History teacher. His name was Mr. Milligan. He had white, white hair and wore jeans everyday. He would always tell us he was “black on the inside.” I never really knew what that meant. In his class, we studied the American labor movement and the Civil Rights Movement. We had a lot of discussions about inequality and inequity in America. We staged a mock trial of Brown v Board of Education, so education was something we dicussed a lot in class. Mr. Milligan was forever referencing Savage Inequalities by Jonathon Kozol. I think we read excerpts in class. Whatever happened, I ended up reading the whole book and it made a profound impression on my little sheltered 16 year old suburban white girl mind.
Fast foward to the summer between 11th and 12th grade. Dr. Benton asked us to read two books over the summer. I only remember the title of one book: Lives on the Boundary. I sped through it and experienced the same effect, only now I was 17 and a little less sheltered.
That was all it took for me to decide that I would not go to Smith College and study Journalism. I would go to NYC and become a teacher. So, I applied to one school and got in. I declared my major my first semester on campus, and got not one but two, part-time jobs that put me in the thick of the public education system. One was a position as an AmericaReads tutor. My first placement was on the Lower East Side, where I worked in a 3rd grade ESL classroom with a very nice but totally burnt-out teacher. I would often walk into the room and be greeted with, “oh, you’re here. Let’s do math [or insert other subject area here]; we haven’t done that in a while!”
The other job was as a corps member with Jumpstart, a non-profit that places teams of college students in Head Start centers to provide one-on-one after school literacy enrichment to a few lucky kids (if there were 10 corps members at a site, there were 10 kids who benefitted). In this program, I learned a lot about child development, psychology, socioeconomic impact and curriculum design/planning. I eventually became a team leader, then a program coordinator before leaving because I couldn’t go any further in the organization without a degree.
It is safe to say that since the age of 18, I have spent almost every working day in a classroom with teachers and/or kids, with the exception of the 5 months that I lived in Prague. Even in Prague, someone arranged for me to visit a school for deaf kids.
I graduated in 2001 with a degree in English Education and a license to teach public school in NYC. I ended up at a small-ish school in the South Bronx, which grew population-wise, by leaps and bounds, in the seven years I taught there. I left that school in January 2008 to pursue peace of mind and other opportunities. You can read about that here and here. Currently, I am
a tech consultant for the New York City Writing Project and housewife, preparing for the arrival of baby #1, due in July mama to Alice Ann, born in July ’08 and Stella Frances, born in April ’10. I returned to teaching full-time in the Fall of ’10 to teach English at a high school in Northampton, MA.