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.