Service- Perspective Taking for Educators

3.22.16 By Frank Wilburn

I will get things done for America - to make our people safer, smarter, and healthier.
I will bring Americans together to strengthen our communities.
Faced with apathy, I will take action.
Faced with conflict, I will seek common ground.
Faced with adversity, I will persevere.
I will carry this commitment with me this year and beyond.
I am an AmeriCorps member, and I will get things done.

As the school year progresses, I have become increasingly reflective of my role, impact, and reasons for choosing Boston Teacher Residency.  It’s been 5 years since I graduated college, and I continue to feel a personal connection to education and community building, ideals that are deeply rooted in service to others. 

Up until last June, I had been working with City Year New York, an education focused AmeriCorps program, first as a Corps Member and Senior Corps Member for two years, and then as a staff member for three years.  Over time, I learned what service meant to me- I learned that service was not about me.  I learned daily that my actions, even those that were the most earnest, well intentioned, and tactful, may not always generate an immediate impact.  I learned to seek out challenges and to remain committed to self growth.  I learned in City Year, and I continue to learn in Boston Teacher Residency. 

The journey that I have undertaken as an educator is shaped and contextualized by the idea of service to others.  Given the reality of urban education in America, is there a more reasonable way to frame the perspective of a novice teacher?  I read the AmeriCorps pledge and find connection with each line.  I believe education is a powerful form of service, one that requires a serious commitment, and I’m thankful that my experience and involvement with AmeriCorps is helping me to make sense of that commitment. 

In BTR, I am continuously exploring what it means to not just teach, but to also serve my students.  The course work provides regular opportunities to both plan for and reflect on the practices and ways in which I engage with my students each day.  I continue to wrestle with the words that have emanated from different contexts throughout this year from my mentors and clinical teacher educators: “it’s not what you teach, it’s how you teach it.”  Though significant, mastery of content knowledge isn’t enough for teachers in urban education.  This year, I’m learning about the need to understand and explore my own relationship with my students, the content, and the practices within and beyond the schoolhouse. Serving my students means making the conscious decision to teach in such a way that allows them to make sense of content and its connection to the larger world around them.  This approach, unfortunately, is not necessarily the norm; it requires stamina, resiliency, and personal reflection to foster an engaging and a high cognitive demand learning environment for all students.  This year, and beyond, I aim to preserve the perspective that teaching is more than just a profession, but also a human endeavor to serve others. 

more from Frank Wilburn on the blog

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