Ambermist’s July Challenge prompts us to write something personal about us, the people behind the blogs and the real faces to the characters we talk about so often. It’s funny, actually — if you’d asked me to write on this prompt a month ago, my answers would be very different. While brainstorming, I swayed between writing something heavy-hearted that I’ve opened up to accept recently, or just listing several small personal things about me. While Ninevi has been going through some changes lately (she’s Worgen now!) some parts of my real-life have been going through a shift, too. Here is my story!
The Academy (My residence for student teaching this upcoming semester)
Now, as somewhat of a warning, I get harped on a lot from friends and family about always talking about my jobs/school and being a workaholic. But to me, that’s my life and what feels like I put all of my passion into and thus defines a lot of who I am.
Early this July, I left my position as a research associate at a biotech lab because I was accepted to both grad school and a teacher residency program that I had interviewed for earlier this year. Don’t get me wrong — I love research in science, and I’ve enjoyed learning so, so much during the 5-6 years I’ve been exposed to the field. But I realized a couple of years ago that my heart isn’t completely there. Maybe it wasn’t so much that I loved research, but that I love science and innovation as a whole. I wanted to do something that reached out to more people and not just in academia and mingling among “distinguished” scientists. There was something missing from the picture, and it was being able to really contribute much to the community around me. There were no feelings of making significant differences or real satisfaction. Granted, I was but a small pawn out in the field and there wasn’t much for me to grow on unless I pursued a doctorate, but I finally came to realize that research was not something I could call a career and dedicate the rest of my life to.
After having worked with many local educational outreach programs in the major city nearby and also with undergraduates in my lab, I discovered a niche — teaching. I found myself feeling happiest and excited to engage with students and getting them likewise excited about science and math. Teaching and leading them opened an opportunity for me to shed my usual introverted, ISTJ-type personality and instead be engaging and less of the held-back, reserved, and overall shy person I’ve been for twenty some years of my life. And so I readily jumped on the residency & grad school program opportunities as soon as they came.
I’ve gone through a lot of (re)-discovering my personal identity as a teacher. The two classes I’ve had so far have examined social injustice and equity in education. Some of the topics such as racism and classism touched too close to home. It was almost bizarre to me (an Asian-American woman who grew up in the Bible Belt portion of Southeastern USA) to hear fellow members of my program describe that they’ve never had experiences of interacting with people from different ethnicities/cultures. It made me realize I always see things in a different lens: in a room of 30 intelligent future teachers of various subjects, 29 were Caucasian, and 1 was…well, me! Having grown up being constantly racially profiled and stereotyped, it was glaringly obvious to me upon entering the classroom. But I wondered if my classmates and friends noticed?
Through discussion, we established that race is a socially constructed notion. Well, I agree. If only someone could explain that to classmates I met throughout grade school who unquestionably saw me as different. Even in online and gaming communities, there are stereotypes. These boxes of labels and over-generalized classifications — they’re everywhere. But how do I relate my experiences to my future students (likely in an urban, inner-city setting)? More importantly, how do I explain (or break down) the walls of social constructs to my future students? These are just some of the things that I’ve been brainstorming since starting my education program. The depth of the topics in social injustice is both disturbing and captivating — it’s something I never really touched on in my core studies in the hard sciences. Social science is so eye-opening, and I hope I can learn even more by getting to know my students and learning from their backgrounds and experiences.
There are a lot of things that drive me as a future teacher. One huge motivation is that I hope to inspire lesser-represented groups of youths (minorities and girls, especially) to be interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). And not just them, but I want to spark more interest in those subjects for all of my students and to show them what kinds of applications there are in everyday life as well as in future studies or careers if they so choose. In two weeks, I’ll begin my student-teaching hours in the classroom at a science and math academy. It’s a lottery-based, urban and public magnet school that pulls from the entire county. I’m incredibly excited and even more nervous and hope I don’t completely make a fool of myself. After all, I’ll have to come up with some way to capture their attention, and I’m hardly as verbose or rambly IRL than I am online and in writing! But perhaps that’s a good thing… :P
All in all, I’m excited and psyched for new beginnings and for changes to come. I know it’ll be a hard and oftentimes underappreciated job, and I know there are frustrating and hair-pulling times to come. But more than anything, I look forward to these challenges. If I can overcome that and make a difference by pushing my students towards being successful in school as well as becoming thriving citizens of society, I would be most pleased.
And just so this post isn’t completely dry work/study related and kind of super-serious, here are some photos of things that are dear to me… :)
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