Don’t you want to know why I want to be a teacher?

Please provide a statement of purpose that includes the following:

  1. Brief intellectual autobiography describing the formation of your academic or artistic interests and present concerns.
  2. Your reasons for wanting to study at College.
  3. A description of tentative plans for the use of your degree, certificate, or credential; and the special areas of interest upon which your study would focus.
Here’s what I came up with:

            It is hard for me to remember a time I couldn’t read.  According to my parents, I was reading by age three.  The pursuit of a highly developed intellect was taught as a moral duty in my home.  In my family, it isn’t important how much money you have, or what color your skin is, what matters is what you know.  In addition to that, your knowledge is amassed for the purpose of public service.

            I went to a preschool and primary school connected to the Episcopal Church.  By the time I was in first or second grade, I was aware of myself as an advanced student.  I knew my success in school was due to my knowledge of reading and words.  I was an avid reader and would wake up as early as four in the morning just to get a few chapters in before I had to leave for school.           

            My passion for academics and my parents’ traditional values led me to choose —————, a seventh- through twelfth-grade school for girls, for my secondary education. ———– offered a rich foundation in the liberal arts.  I gained access to texts and ideas from diverse peoples and places.  As a high school student I knew I was being intellectually challenged, but I felt, as I think many adolescents feel, the desire to be in touch with the “real world.”  As I looked towards college, I eschewed the idea of a rural liberal arts campus with an insular collegiate life.  I wanted to be in the big city.

            I selected New York University.  Although I was initially overwhelmed by the size of the university and the city, I worked hard to find a niche for myself.  The Gallatin School was perfect for me.  The program for undergraduates is built around the advisor-student relationship, interdisciplinary seminars, and a student-centered and created focus of study.  I began reading a lot.  Constantly.  I seldom read for “pleasure” because I took so many classes, and my classes were my pleasure.  I discovered James Joyce and James Baldwin, and rediscovered authors I thought I hated in high school, like Virginia Woolf and William Carlos Williams.  I wanted to be just like my college professors.  I planned to get a doctorate so that I could live the lives they led, full of books, ideas, discussion, and debate.

            Books and the written word were the most important thing in my life. Words were important to me as agents of change.  But the years after my college graduation were tough ones for the world and our country, and I think after a while I gave up on books and words, as I was confronted with incomprehensible realities.

            After I experienced the tragedy of September 11, 2001 firsthand as a resident of New York City, I turned to the law and government because I thought that they might provide individuals with the agency to affect necessary change, more so than the books and words I worshipped.  I sought pre-law jobs to prepare me for law school and my future career as a public interest attorney.  Yet after several years of working in jobs to “make sure” I wanted to be a lawyer, I admitted to myself that the work didn’t make me happy.  Something was missing for me, so I moved on.

           During a year of exploration in a new city, San Francisco, I tutored students in the Mission District of San Francisco at 826 Valencia.  I worked with children between the ages of six and thirteen.  I had never been so happy in any work as I was there.  Working with these children was an epiphany for me.  Although I had wanted for a long time to work with college students, I never considered that I might enjoy younger children and adolescents.  It was then that I knew I wanted a career in education, and I have never questioned that since.

          A teacher who I met and worked with at 826 Valencia offered me a job at nearby James Lick Middle School where she serves as Assistant Principal.  I was incredibly anxious to enter the classroom, and though I always knew I wanted to be an English teacher, I happily took the job as a Resource Specialist Teacher in the Special Education Department.  I was thrilled to have the opportunity to work so closely with individual students.  What I enjoyed most about my job was how much I was able to focus on each student as an individual.  I was in a unique position to work closely with families and to be a liaison between them and the school.  I was a passionate advocate for each of my students.  It was a beautiful and difficult year.

           Since I was uncredentialed I began taking classes at ————— in order to earn the necessary qualifications for my job.  After a year of working and going to school, I knew that I still wanted to be a teacher, but that I wanted to prepare myself in a different way.  It was then that I first looked to ———– for my teacher preparation.  I attended an information session and was impressed by the faculty and the obviously rigorous approach ————– takes to teacher preparation.  Although I was very attracted to the program at ———–, I decided that since I had began my credential program at ———- that it made the most sense for me to continue there.

          I have now been at ———- another semester, and have once again looked to ————for the superior preparation it has to offer future teachers.  From my conversations with professors and former students I am confident that the———— approach is what I am seeking.  I want to be immersed in the theory and practice of education.  I want my teacher preparation to be an experience in which academic inquiry and practical skills are synthesized.  I want to be a member of an academic and teaching community that supports its students through mentorship and advisement, and where students teach and learn from each other.

          A teaching credential from ———– will first set me on a path to service as a classroom teacher.  Although I’m a product of private schools, I am committed to equitable educational opportunities for all students, which is why my mission has been to work in public schools.  I grew up in a city and society where people traveled further for school and work than ever before.  My instinct is the opposite.  I would like to teach close to where I live in Oakland.  Work and school are means for building community, which in turn supports residents.  In my mission as an educator, I want to be a part of building the community where I live.  I want to work closely with students and their families to provide them with the best education possible.  In turn I hope that my school will work closely with the various resources in the community; businesses, professionals, and public service providers, to make community members active partners in the education of its youth.

           While it is hard to imagine leaving the classroom when I have only just begun, I already envision my career as ultimately moving beyond the classroom, or at least beyond the role of classroom teachers as they exist in the status quo.

          I plan on earning both a master’s degree and doctorate in education, or a related field that would allow me to continue being active in the education world.  I look at the process of earning these degrees from several points.  First, I consider myself a life-long learner.  I want always to be engaged in my subject, and to continue questioning and reflecting on my practice.  I also want to be an expert in my field and I’m confident that I have the aptitude to achieve that.  In addition, I view my credential and these future degrees as tools for leadership.  I believe that all teachers are leaders, but that it would be revolutionary for them to be considered by the world and themselves as such.  As an educator I will do more than teach daily lessons.  I will advance research, put forth new ways of thinking, and hopefully bring about positive change. 

         All of these are hypotheses, things that I can only imagine from this standpoint and commit to work towards.  But what I know now with certainty is that education is a passion for me that I have always had and I am confident will not wane over the course of my lifetime.  I know that my personal standards dictate that I will always be an active and contributing member of society and my community.  I look forward to the opportunity to begin this journey at ————-.

 I had to reread that.  After a period of approximately 7 days of deeply experienced anxiety (sobbing, sleeplessness, irritability, rage) about reentering the classroom (where I have served children, where I have learned things I never knew, and where I have been called names I never thought I’d hear out of the mouth of a 12-year-old) I had to remind myself of the spirit that carried me to this place.  

My Rockridge life is pretty cushy, but my life hasn’t always been 100% cush-tastic; I’ve had a challenge or two (the year of CCRB anyone?  I never thought anything could drive me out of NYC, but that did).  Yet, in spite of the challenges I’ve previously faced, for those of you who have never done it, I cannot tell you how viscerally terrifying it can be to stand up in front of a room of teenagers.

What I didn’t go into in this essay was how deplorable the program I was in at SFSU turned out to be.  You don’t say those types of things in an admissions essay, the same way you don’t badmouth your old boss to a prospective employer.  

So here I am.  ———-Masters candidate.  This is the real deal people.  My first class is tomorrow: Wednesday, August 27th at 2:30 PM PST.  Pray for me. 

Special thanks to T G, L K, S C, H A-S, K V, C H, N M, C P, K B, G M, and especially B N.

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