One teacher got into the profession because of a well-placed subway ad. Another, feeling nostalgic for New York, left a teaching gig at a military base in North Carolina to teach art in her native Bronx.
They are just two of the city’s newest educators, joining a teaching force of roughly 76,000. Over 1,000 new educators attended teacher training sessions this week hosted by the education department and teachers union, and Chalkbeat caught up with a handful of them to ask how they got into the profession, and what they’re most excited or nervous about the week before school starts. Here are some of their reactions:
School: Medgar Evers College Preparatory School (Brooklyn)
Subject: Special education/English
Excitement level (scale of 1-10): “Like 100”
How ready do you feel? (scale of 1-10): 6
After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, Seaton wanted to pursue a career in civil rights or social justice, but said she “didn’t know how to do that.” So after reflecting on her positive experience as a mentor through the Big Brothers Big Sisters program, and after her high school track coach suggested she might enjoy teaching, she signed up for the New York City Teaching Fellows Program, which offers a summer of intensive training followed by a classroom placement in the fall.
What’s one thing you hope your students master by the end of the year?
Getting them to use writing as their craft and voice … I’ll definitely have them journaling.
What’s your biggest fear headed into the school year?
There’s always that irrational fear of, ‘What if I fail the kids — what if I’m not doing enough or being present for them?’
Do you feel well prepared?
Not really. I feel somewhat prepared, but one thing I learned from summer school: Until you step foot in the classroom and step face-to-face with your students, anything can change. You have to be agile. I’m OK with that.
Marcia A. Jackson
School: Metropolitan High School (Bronx)
Subject: Visual arts
Excitement level: 10-11
How ready do you feel? 11
Jackson has been teaching for seven years, most recently through a school at Camp Lejeune, a military base in North Carolina. She’s a Bronx native who wanted to return because, she said, “I was just totally nostalgic for New York.”
What will be the hardest adjustment teaching outside a military base?
At [Camp Lejeune] they’re really expected to engage in education – the whole family will suffer if the student doesn’t do well … If a child acts up, then the family is called in front of the commanding officer. … [In New York, students] have to be a little more independent and recognize the purpose of education for themselves. The safety nets are not there for the child in New York City as it is for the child [with parents] in military.
What are you most excited about?
Meeting my students; getting to know my students.
What’s your biggest fear?
Not having enough funding for supplies.
School: P.S. K231 (Brooklyn)
Subject: Special education (District 75)
Excitement level: 9
How ready do you feel? 8
A native of Brazil, Caldart started his career in banking before spending roughly a decade in New York teaching acting in after-school programs in all five boroughs. “After-school is a great time to teach,” he said. But “the whole school doesn’t give as much importance to the after-school program.” That’s what drove him to apply to the New York City Teaching Fellows Program. He will be teaching kids with autism this fall.
How did you get interested in special education?
I remember special ed kids being treated as … ‘These are the kids who can’t learn.’ And I’m impressed by all the changes that have been made in District 75 [which serves students with more complicated special education needs]. They teach with high expectations, the same expectations they have of the other students.
What do you hope your students master by the end of the year?
The knowledge that they can say something — there is a way to communicate if they are non-verbal. They can be heard by a gesture or a word.
What’s your biggest fear?
My fear is that I am not able to understand them. How can I really reach them?
School: High School of Fashion Industries (Manhattan)
Subject: General fashion skills (sewing and draping)
Excitement level: 10
How ready do you feel? 8
A former “juniors” apparel designer at a large retailer, Mayer found her way into the classroom after a friend made a similar transition from the fashion industry to education and posted a job listing on Facebook. Mayer hasn’t received any formal teacher training, but was ready to move on from sitting at a desk, so “I just applied on a whim and sent them my resume and website,” she said.
What’s one thing you hope your students learn by the end of the year?
There’s things you haven’t even heard about that you’re able to do as a job … I don’t know that always comes across in education. I want for them to know most that there’s room for everyone.
How will you approach fashion education?
I had a really amazing professor in college who taught sewing and draping. It was so approachable and broken down into simple steps – I want to mirror that in my teaching style.
Do you feel prepared?
I think the administration and the coordinator is going to be pivotal in being a successful teacher. They’ll set me up with a mentor and give me all the training I need to connect the dots.