New York

What I Want for My Students

If I have learned anything in the seven years since I first stepped foot into the classroom as a teacher, it is that there is always something more important and foundational than what I think is at any given moment. I first thought teaching was just about academic knowledge, then I thought it was about that and academic skills, but I am beginning to realize that more foundational than either of those things is the need to help student learn to cope with life. As a student teacher, I kept my full focus on helping my students to have the knowledge and habits of mind necessary to be critical of society and to create a more just world. These are worthy goals, but I realized very quickly in my first full year of teaching in Virginia that none of this mattered if my students could not read and write well. When I moved to New York and joined the Bronx Lab School for its third year, I added much more focus on improving students' skills. Over the past four years, as both a history and English teacher while still working towards my original goals, I worked with my students to become better readers and writers so that they would have the academic skills necessary to succeed in college and their careers. Again, these were worthy goals, but last month, as I watched the advisees I've had for the past four years walk across the stage to receive their diplomas, I realized that, once again, none of this matters without more fundamental foundations. Thinking of the students I've known who just graduated, here are some of the things I want for them before I think about their academic skills or knowledge of the world: I want my students to have a set of tools to deal with conflicts other than fighting, yelling, or shutting down.