When I met Mark, I was a college junior seeking a part-time job. At that time, I would have characterized myself as a good person, genuinely invested in the cause of helping students. I did not realize, however, the complexities and hardships that educators in low-income communities face. On my first day at Tutors For All, I sat across from a high school sophomore who scored at a seventh grade reading level on his diagnostic exam.I now recognize how pivotal this moment was in forming my approach to working with students in low-income communities. I entirely credit the culture Mark built among our staff because during our reflections on students’ progress, my thought process always put the emphasis on what I could do better as a tutor.
Through our data-driven debriefing sessions, I gained a core belief that this student and all students like him could learn, and would learn, if I followed the right steps as a tutor. While I tutored my student, Mark tutored me. He gave me the skills necessary to avoid “rookie mistakes” in classroom management and set the bar high in terms of behavioral expectations of students. The success I had with one student gave me the confidence to be able to manage more students, and by the time I left City on a Hill, I was a Lead Tutor managing ten students and five tutors.
With this skill set and my passion for closing the achievement gap, I joined Teach for America directly after college. My placement school began the year with good people, genuinely invested in the cause of helping students. By October, however, 47% of our teaching staff quit, citing reasons like, “these kids are just too far behind” or “I’m not able to teach because I’m too busy disciplining all day.” I was not among this 47%. I finished my two years of service with Teach for America, and I strongly believe it was due to the core belief that my students could learn. When I taught a lesson my students struggled to understand, I used the same data driven reflection process that became second nature during my time at City on a Hill. Since I believed all my students wanted to learn, it seemed only natural that I would hone my skills to become the type of teacher they deserved. At the end of my two years of teaching, my 186 students averaged second of nine schools in the district on their state End of Course exams. I firmly believe my success as a teacher is directly linked to the skills and mindsets that I acquired during my two years as a “Tutor for All.”
After serving 2 years with Teach for America I went back to school to become a nurse and am a practicing Community Health Nurse in Camden. New Jersey.