I haven’t posted in a awhile – A few folks I know have been contemplating joining the NYC Teaching Fellows. I did some rummaging through my email and found my application from three years ago. I shocked at how much I knew back then. I definitely think my application speaks true to who I am as a person and an educator.
I wonder if the person that wrote this application would be happy with the teacher I am today…
Provide Academic Details:
Why do you feel that your GPA is not indicative of your future performance in a rigorous Master’s program? (278)
My GPA is in no way a true measure of my academic prowess. I have always been a good student. My cumulative GPA reflects an aberrant shift in priorities and an untimely bought with academic immaturity. In Spring 2005 I pursued joining a social organization, as a result my GPA dropped to a 2.9. During my remaining years at Indiana State University I unsuccessfully tried to retake the classes I previously failed, yet my drive to raise my grades in the classes wasn’t there. In other words I tried to retake them before I was ready. This was truly a juvenile move on my part. However, it is because of my regrettable performance in those classes that I learned the importance of pushing myself in all academic situations.
I am currently enrolled as a part-time MPA student at Northeastern University. I am proud to say that I enjoy the challenge of learning foreign subject matter in an effort to make myself a better person and professional. Currently I have received stellar grades on all assignments in my Functions and Techniques of Public Management course, and would be more than happy to share a proof of my transcript and/or assignments with the review board upon completion of my semester in December.
Now, years removed from undergraduate distraction and malaise I am confident in my motivation to be a successful educator. I hope that review board will view my GPA for what it was, blind immaturity from a young adult that prevented me from seeing how my inaction could affect my future. Please feel free to contact me if you would like a more in-depth explanation of my academic history.
Please provide an essay of between 400 and 600 words that addresses both of the following questions:
Nearly all Fellows are hired to teach in ‘high-need’ schools that are located in low-income communities. Why do you want to teach specifically in a high-need school in New York City? Why do you believe you will be an effective teacher in a high-need school? (451)
I have had the pleasure to work for an amazing alternative education and job training nonprofit for the past two and a half years. During my time with YouthBuild USA, I have gained heartbreaking knowledge about why many low-income youth and young adults leave or get kicked out of school. Some of the reasons can be attributed to not getting the academic support necessary to learn new material, problems stemming from the student’s home life, criminal behavior, and pregnancy to name a few.
None the less, many of the young leaders I work with have expressed that a caring and thoughtful adult/teacher can make a world of difference in a student’s life. It is my mission to develop youth into young leaders. Personal experience has shown me that many youth, specifically young males of color, benefit from having someone that looks like them mentor and support their personal, academic, social, and professional development.
Working with low-income youth in NYC will give me the opportunity to move from a reactive and corporate role in fighting education disparity to a more front-lines spot in this war. I love the work that I get to engage in as the Graduate Education and Policy Coordinator for YouthBuild USA, but I yearn deeply for the opportunity to take action in a classroom setting every day to help make the lives’ of my students more bountiful.
To me, NYC is the personification of diversity, eccentricity, resilience, and strength. The war on education inequality can’t be fought on a more important battleground than the streets, homes, and youth that inhabit NYC. I want to learn and be a part of the solution, and I believe that solution will be uncovered there.
There are many reasons why I feel I will be an effective member of the Teaching Fellows team. Number one is passion! I have an intense desire to help youth, specifically low-income, realize their potential that lies within, so they can have an easier transition into the professional and scholastic world. I believe the combination of my passion and professional experiences will help push me to become an effective NYC special education teacher.
In addition to my passion, being an African American male in the classroom will help me connect with my students. It will also show them another example of a positive role model that they may not get the opportunity to see often. I aim to be a supportive teacher that values the opinions of my students. I am also patient, a problem solver, and a good communicator. Overall, I am looking to be fully engaged in the learning cycle – as a contributor to my students’ development and as a beneficiary of the teaching experience.
What is the greatest challenge you expect to encounter in raising student achievement in a high need school (400-600)? What do you believe would be your role, as a teacher, in addressing this challenge? (573)
Academics will always be a challenge. However, the biggest challenge will be changing the long standing beliefs and pre-conceived notions that affect low-income communities, particularly their students. I want to create a culture of student achievement, and great possibilities. However, having that permeate my students is not enough. It has to penetrate other classrooms, teachers, faculty and staff. The students have to believe in it enough to take it home and trust in it when they have to face their challenges alone, or when staff is not available to help walk them through. Students have to buy into it so much that it affects their parents, siblings, families, peers, neighbors, and communities of support. If I can’t get my students to believe in themselves, then raising their achievement levels will be extremely difficult. It seems like an impossible task, but it has to start somewhere. I believe I can be an affective agent of change through my own classroom work.
As a teacher, I will have to set high expectations in my classroom for myself and my students. I would like to incorporate past and present accomplishments of the students’ peers into our daily activities. Seeing what my counterparts and ancestors were able to achieve serves as a huge inspiration for me. I want to introduce my students to similar experiences in an effort to support their own dreams and goals, and show them that if it was possible for (blank), then it is possible for you as well.
Many of the young leaders I work with through YouthBuild say that a major reason they have changed their lives from dropouts to high school graduates is that our programs create a family vibe that they may not be receiving at home. I want to recreate this atmosphere for my students so they will know that they have a safe place to learn. Creating a safe environment starts with respect. Everyone in the classroom needs to support the learning of their peers.
I want to introduce my students to the concepts of self-doubt and self-sabotage. Self-doubt is a counterproductive mindset that inhibits one’s productivity due to a lack of belief in their own abilities. Self-sabotage is a fear of the unknown or uncommon success, generally resulting in the derailment of positive behaviors that lead to one’s own defeat. I will work within my classroom to set up early warning systems to alert me when one of my students enters into one of these detrimental spaces.
Many people allow both of these subconscious behaviors to inhibit their potential, particularly low income students. By labeling, I will draw their attention to these concepts with the hope that they will be more equipped to persist through these challenges to success. I will also work to develop a culture of student leadership in my classroom.
I want to be a mentor for my students. I plan to be an ever-present helping hand that will support them through their challenges in the classroom. I recognize that most students may not feel comfortable doing this at first. This is why it is important that I set up a safe learning space and relationship, so that my students will feel comfortable reaching out to me.
Last, but not least, I will have an open door policy for parents and guardians. I want the families of my students to know that I will always welcome them to engage in their child’s learning.
Explain how your past experience informs your response to these questions. If applicable, please include relevant personal, work, or volunteer experience with high-need communities. (311)
I’ve peppered many of these essays with knowledge that I’ve gained working with YouthBuild USA and a lot of its student and alumni representatives. YouthBuild is a national nonprofit that focuses on helping low-income young adults, ages 16 – 24, return to school to obtain their high school diploma/GED and job training skills. Many of the students who enter YouthBuild programs across the nation have left school for a number of reasons which can include but are not limited to not getting the academic support necessary to learn new material, problems stemming from the student’s home life, criminal behavior, transportation issues, being expelled from the local school district, or even an unexpected pregnancy.
As the Graduate Education and Policy Coordinator for YouthBuild USA I get to work closely with many of the students and alumni who are involved in our young adult policy councils or our National Speakers Bureau. I also work with our students that attend our national events such as Conference of Young Leaders which takes place annually each March in Washington, DC. In this role I work under two departments, our Graduate Leadership Department and our Postsecondary Education Department.
In this capacity that I get to hear many best practices on how to support the development of disengaged youth from our students, alumni, program staff, and partners across the nation. This knowledge has given me valuable ideas about how to make a difference, but only the Teaching Fellows will allow me to put these ideas into action.
I truly enjoy working with the students to transform their best practices into national policy suggestions. However, I feel the need to have a more direct role with students in a classroom environment. Many of the ways I plan to support student development inside my classroom are indirect representations of advice, practices, and tools I have heard throughout my time with YouthBuild.
In no more than 400 words, please briefly describe your specific interests within the NYC Teaching Fellows program. While not required, we encourage candidates to respond to these essays as they will help us to understand your Fellowship preferences.
3. Why do you want to teach Special Education? If applicable, please include relevant personal, work or volunteer experience with populations with special needs. (372)
I feel the natural next step in my professional career is to become a teacher. One of my future goals is to be an education administrator supporting the development of strong students, alumni, teachers and support staff. I have gained valuable administrative experience in the field, but now it is time for me to venture into the realm of teaching and educating in a true classroom setting.
Graduating from college with a degree in public relations has made me a strong thinker and communicator. However, my degree limited my immediate options to enter the realm of traditional teaching. I actually investigated getting an alternative teaching certificate a few years back. But, I became discouraged when I realized that I could never teach science, history, or English.
Eventually I realized that working in for an education nonprofit was not close enough for me to feel as though I was making a real difference. Around the same time I saw an ad on idealist.org asking for teachers in New York City. It was then that I understood that I was still eligible to become a special education teacher, and I have been re-energized ever since.
To me, special education has a strong correlation to the student population I was working with at YouthBuild USA. I do not claim to know all the answers, nor the unique challenges this subgroup of students face on a daily basis. However, I understand that this classroom environment will be made up of an eclectic group of learners. This tells me that the classroom will not lend itself to using one approach to ensure all are learning the same content.
It is my understanding that this group of students would benefit from highly specialized and individualized instruction. This groups of students more than likely faces a wide range of disadvantages, and needs someone who is in tune with those, and willing to work around and through these barriers to help them find success.
I know that I will be a strong advocate on their side. And I am eager to couple my knowledge and the best practices from YouthBuild students and staff with the tools and tips I learn from teaching fellows to be a successful special education teacher.