Friday, September 25, 2009

Learning to Teach

A business trip to Cambridge, Massachusetts yesterday allowed me to spend some time with my favorite student at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Matt Yellin.

Matt is enrolled in a Masters of Education in Teaching program, with a focus on teaching and curriculum. The goal of this program is to prepare individuals to become middle or secondary school classroom teachers in urban settings.

Matt's decision to become a teacher evolved over several years. He was a tutor for students from disadvantaged backgrounds while he was in college and he worked for two summers for a law firm that did special education advocacy. He considered the Teach for America program, but decided that to be an effective teacher he needed more training than Teach for America would provide. Given his choice of numerous programs, he decided that Harvard would be the best place to learn the pedagogical tools he would need to be effective in the classroom.

It is clear that Matt is enjoying his classes and his work at a Boston area high school under the guidance of a mentor teacher. What he finds frustrating, however, is the numerous questions he gets about why someone like him, a cum-laude graduate of a top college, wants to teach -- not just for a couple of years, but for the forseeable future. It's a good question. But maybe not the right one. Why shouldn't we expect our top students to become teachers, just as readily as they become doctors, lawyers, and wizards of Wall Street? And why doesn't our society hold teachers in the same regard as these other professionals and compensate them accordingly? These are questions for lengthy books, not blogs -- but we are proud of our future teacher and know that he will make a positive difference in the lives of his students in years to come.