May 16, 2011 8 Comments
Hope. Believing in the unattainable. It may come easy to some, so easy that they take it for granted. Coming from an urban city, I know that sometimes hope is all we have. Born and raised in Southwest Philadelphia, I am very familiar with being in an urban environment. I attended kindergarten at a private Christian school right across the street from my house along with my older brother. However, because my parents did not agree with the curriculum in the schools they pulled us both out. Instead of transferring us to another school in the area, my parents decided to homeschool my older brother, my younger sister, and I. From first through tenth grade, I was schooled at home. Homeschooling had many different pros and cons; I basically grew up without having any friends, but I was also able to focus on my work, advance beyond my grade level, and learn independent study at a young age.
Even though I resented being homeschooled for so long, when I became a tutor at my local library I was able to appreciate the solid academic foundation it gave me. When I was fourteen years old, I became a Teen Leadership Assistant at the Kingsessing Branch library located on 51st and Kingsessing Ave. For three years, I tutored elementary and middle school age kids along with becoming a mentor to some of them. It was during these three years that I realized I wanted to become a teacher. I have always loved kids, but working with my students at the library—hearing about the struggles they went through at home, and seeing how much some of them wanted to learn but just weren’t presented with the opportunities—really influenced me. I decided that I wanted to encourage kids to learn and inspire them to aspire to be anything they wanted to be, not just what society was telling them they could be. At the library, watching my kids grow up and go through different teachers, I could see the affects “good” and “bad” teachers could have on their students.
What many people don’t realize is that teaching in an urban environment is not simply teaching your curriculum in the classroom. Working as a TLA, I would often become upset with how many teachers ignored life issues that affected their students’ education. Often, because of the ideologies society presses upon minority students in urban environments and with the growing need of renovations in our school systems, a teacher must go beyond his or her place to plant hope in the hearts and minds of his or her students.
Being a native Philadelphian, I know that I do have a home field advantage over some of the other students coming from Penn State, however, I know that there is much I am unaware of as far teaching in an urban environment. Even though I was not a student in Philadelphia’s school system, I am excited to be able to work in the system through the Philadelphia Urban Seminar as a teaching assistant. I plan to utilize my knowledge of growing up in an urban environment and mentoring and tutoring students to make this experience memorable. I want to learn all that I can being a TA, but I also pray that I will be able to influence the students I am working with and maybe, just maybe, plant seeds of hope. Not “mythical hope” or “hokey hope” which Duncan-Andrade explained in his essay “Note to Educators”; but instead a true hope, which will live eternally in the students in my classroom. Sometimes all a child needs is someone to believe in them and help them build up hope, for them to succeed in life surpassing all limitations.