I decided I wanted to become a teacher when I was a sophomore in college. I felt an overwhelming sense of duty to help students achieve their full potential. I thought teaching would be a great tool to promote self-empowerment and self-confidence in students. I have a strong belief that every individual has specific and unique gifts. I realized, however, that many students dismiss their capabilities and suffer from low self-esteem. I thought this was a direct result of the American educational system. The system is so strictly regimented in a way that students either succeed or fail. Students who learn differently or express themselves in different ways often are not supported by the educational paradigm. These students therefore slip through the cracks and develop low self-esteem and low self-worth. I remember thinking that, as a teacher, I would be able to inspire my students and to help them develop faith in themselves. Because I was in a school environment with thousands of young, self-empowered women, I became very idealistic. Like other Smith students, I wanted to be an agent for change rather than a passive bystander.
Upon graduating from Smith in 2012, I received my first teaching job at an all-girls’ charter school in the south Bronx. As a typical Smithie, I was so excited to be able to jumpstart my career right after college. I did not, however, consider the emotional and mental stresses teaching in the south Bronx would cause.
I started my job very enthusiastically: I was ready to “change the lives” of my students and to help them believe in their personal and academic abilities. I was especially excited to be working at an all-girls’ school, as I always believed that young girls and women particularly needed self-empowerment.
I was not prepared for the experiences I faced while teaching at this school. I learned so much about the education system, about teaching, about students, and about myself. In general, I loved teaching. I loved waking up every morning knowing that I was going to do some good in the lives of my students. I loved giving advice and listening to students’ fears. I loved seeing a student’s eyes widen as she finally understood a concept. I loved spending extra time with a student after class and hearing her say “thank you.” It was very rewarding. This, however, was dichotomized by a horrendous experience with the bureaucratic atmosphere of the school. I plan to use this blog to share some of my stories teaching in the south Bronx. Keep checking back to follow me along on my first year journey in the trenches of public school teaching.
Last year, I did a project with my students for the International Day of the Girl Child. The International Day of the Girl Child is held annually on October 11 and is a day meant to recognize girls’ voices and power. Its purpose is to make people more aware of girls’ position in the world by promoting girls’ rights for education, healthcare, and political involvement. For more information on International Day of the Girl Child, please visit: http://dayofthegirl.org/
For my project, I conducted a lesson on the current statistics of girls’ education. I demonstrated that many girls throughout the world are not only limited by an unequal education but are also sometimes denied this basic right. Currently, only about 30% of girls are enrolled in secondary schools. In several countries, girls are not allowed to receive the same education as boys. In 2012, the International Day of the Girl Child fell just shortly after Malala Yousafzai was shot by the Taliban for standing up for girls’ rights for education. I hesitated about whether or not to share this information with my students, as I did not want to upset or scare them. However, I ultimately decided that it was important for them to know about it so that they could see just how much girls are oppressed. After doing this project in my classroom, my students were absolutely outraged. I encouraged them to write letters to the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI). As a result, three UNGEI consultants visited our school and interviewed my students. Their work is featured on the UNICEF website: http://www.educationandtransition.org/resources/students-from-the-bronx-global-learning-institute-for-girls-write-about-education-part-1-of-4/
The local news discovered this story and decided to come and interview my students and broadcast it on the local news. The news clip can be seen here: http://bronx.news12.com/news/bronx-global-learning-institute-for-girls-mails-letters-on-equality-to-the-united-nations-1.4631854
This is just one example of how children’s voices can make an impact. Never underestimate the power behind a child’s honesty, passion, and hope.
E.L.A. Fairy Tales
This lesson plan is designed for elementary school students. The lesson asks students to recognize the importance of storytelling and fairy tales in world cultures.
Cross-cultural comparison of respect in Vietnamese and American life.
This lesson is more of a research project for an advanced English class rather than an individual lesson. The paper asks students to do a cross-cultural comparison of respect in both Vietnam and the United States. How is respect shown through Vietnamese culture and life? How is it shown through American culture and life? What can we learn about these similarities and differences?
Trauma and Resilience in Vietnam: Through the Lens of Agent Orange
The lesson deals with questions of trauma and resilience in Vietnam, using the effects of Agent Orange as an example. The lesson asks student to analyze how Vietnam was traumatized by the Vietnam War and how Vietnam demonstrates resilience. Students are then asked to question the importance of resilience in Vietnam, in the U.S.A., and in their own lives.
French Lesson Plan: French/Vietnamese Cognates
The lesson has students analyze the influence of French colonization on the Vietnamese language and culture through the observation of Vietnamese/French cognates.