Teaching: One Young Woman Finds a Career in Education

by Rick on May 13, 2013

A Young Educator Finds Her Calling

A couple of years ago I wrote about how at the age of 18, Maggie Doyne launched herself off into the world with only what she could carry in her backpack, and how in the course of the next five years she discovered depths of human suffering and joy she didn’t know existed, built an orphanage and a school for 200 children, and “…got my passion back to live and to learn and to be human on this earth.”

Reading this story Louisa Pitt, then 28, wrote me a long email including the following:

I actually met Maggie last year when I was teaching at The Willow School, in Pottersville, NJ.  It was pretty incredible hearing her story first hand.  The work she is doing is truly awe-inspiring.

However, at the same time, I find stories like this one somewhat daunting. I remember vividly during Maggie’s visit to the school, her father talking about receiving the phone call during which Maggie asked him to wire her her babysitting money because she wanted to build a school.  Listening to him speak, I couldn’t help but feel ashamed at the ways I have chosen to spend my own money–on clothes, restaurants, rent and other 1st worldly things.  If Maggie could do it, why couldn’t I?

The answer is of course, exactly what you get at in your post: Her genuis.  Not mine.  But… if my genius is excellent teaching how do I know I am directing my genius on the right course?

Maggie followed her gut and ended up in Nepal.  I followed something (my gut? the road less travelled? the path of least resistance?) and ended up in a well-to-do private school in a well-to-do town, comprised of well-to-do children and families.  If as Haberman suggests, one of the “answers” to the problem of America’s failing schools is changing the pedagogy of urban education, should a teacher like me flock to the cause?  Do I have a responsibility, as Maggie felt she did, to answer this call?  And if I did answer the call, then what?  While one more class of kids in an urban area has a good teacher, perhaps one less class at the school I left does.  What about the other kids, in other classes?  What about the kids in other schools?  Towns?  Cities?  States? Countries?  How can we take Haberman’s or anyone’s model for that matter, and make it work on the large scale?

My feeling at this point is we can’t.  And as the article How to fix our schools” By Richard Rothstein (posted below) points out, right now, there are so many problems impacting and hindering students’ abilities to achieve, I fifth grade project based learning - Google Searchdoubt a single solution strategy would barely have an impact.  So I remain where I started, without real answers and perhaps with even more questions.  However, I guess this is one of those moments where I am able to truly empathize with my students:  How many times a day are they faced with questions that seem answerless, and problems that seem insurmountable?   And how many times do I ask them to buck up and buckle down and get their brains going to find a solution…. Oh, the karma of it all 🙂

-Louisa

P.S.   In the end, I can’t help but find it ironic that while my classroom is a haven of possibility, positivity, encouragement, and growth, whenever I think beyond my own walls, I become wildly pessimistic and discouraged about education and how I will impact this field about which I care so deeply.  I want desperately to share my ideas and help fix the problem(s), but right now, I am having a very tough time figuring out how I can make the most, or for that matter any, impact.

Today, Louisa is teaching fifth grade at Buckingham Browne and Nichols School in Cambridge, MA.  Here is her update as of January 14, 2013

This year has been a wonderful change for me.  I really like BBN and my class is wonderful.  What stands out the most though, in terms of making me happier and more “at peace” (for lack of a better term) is the collegiality of the faculty at BBN and their dedication to both their craft and to the greater goal  learning and growth or students.  I don’t think I realized that much of what was discouraging me about education in general was working in an education environment where change and growth were feared.  Now that I am working in a place where everyone is really gung ho about professional development and forward thinking, it is much easier to feel like I am effecting change, even if just on a small scale.  So that is nice 🙂

Just one more story about the calling called “educator.”

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