Reflections from a First-Year Teaching Fellow

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Cameron Tulloch joined Citizen Schools this past fall as a first-year Teaching Fellow. Originally from Melville, NY, Cameron enjoys writing and recording his own music and is passionate about the nonprofit industry and helping others. Over the past semester, Cameron has proven that he is not only committed to supporting students through his work with Citizen Schools, but that he is dedicated to learning himself, as he is also a full-time student at St. John’s University in Queens. As part of his studies, Cameron, was asked to record reflections on his experiences as a new teacher. Included below is a selection of his work, documenting his first semester of teaching with Citizen Schools.

September 6, 2017: The Start of a Journey

This month begins my journey as a Teaching Fellow with Citizens Schools. As a Teaching Fellow, I have been assigned to Renaissance School of the Arts, a public school, within the New York City public school system. I will be teaching several apprenticeship classes on the following subjects: Problems in the Community, Journalism, Band, and Poetry. From the outset, I will acknowledge that this journey will not be without its challenges as I will be working five days a week, from 9-5, while also maintaining my full-time status (18 credits) as a junior at St John’s University. To be sure, the outlook is somewhat daunting…

Part of Citizen Schools work culture is to extensively train their workers, which I must say, they have done quite well. My fellow-workers and I have been train on such topics as curriculum planning, lesson plans, classroom behavior, how to deal with students from various cultures as well as emergency medical tips! I am learning skills such as leadership, fortitude, and the ability to work with others regardless of race, creed, or ethnicity. Even though I am a teacher, I am discovering that I will probably learn much more than the students that I'm teaching.

September 19, 2017: Teaching School-Aged Students is More About Connections Than it is About Pieces of Information

Since High School, when I was a tutor and helped my fellow peers with various subjects, I have known that there were different learning styles inasmuch as there are different people. Therefore, in order to facilitate learning, I have found it necessary to have different teaching styles. I have found that developing personal relationships with my students is an effective way to help them learn. Since learning for learning’s sake is not the goal, helping students understand how to apply what they have learned in everyday life situations is a better way to teach. At Citizen Schools, we strive to build a culture of community by including everyone -- parents and community leaders -- in the educational process. Part of my job is to call parents in the evenings to discuss their child academic issues, health, and behavior. In this way, the work becomes a true collaboration of efforts around developing the ‘whole student’.

However challenging this position may be, the challenges are worth facing, when I consider what is really at stake. It is not just the course curriculum, or how well you teach, rather it is the student as a whole that matters.

October 17, 2017: A New Motto

“If you can engage an audience of middle school students for over an hour, you can handle most anything!”

Believe me there is much truth in that statement. Keeping a classroom of over 27 students focused is a feat worthy of an award! For the most part, as my experience continues to unfold, I am learning so much in so many different areas. From an administrative perspective, I am learning a wide-range of skills which focuses on improving the efficiency, productivity, and output of our student’s work. With respect to my fellow colleagues, I am learning about how their attitudes about students and their work affects job satisfaction and improves employee efficiency. Citizen Schools teaches Teaching Fellows, like me, to provide opportunities and supports for students to engage in “productive struggle” as they begin to learn different ideas and concepts. I am committed to promoting and measuring students’ growth mindset and social-emotional well-being as well as all areas of their learning experience in order to promote the whole student.

November 13, 2017: What I Have Learned Thus Far…

Teaching is more than commitment, caring, and charisma. While these qualities are very important and, indeed, quite necessary, they are only a part of what it means to teach. I have learned that teachers truly have to have a basic concept of how to teach and understand how children learn. Ultimately, in the midst of all the caring and the inevitable chaos, the technique of teaching well  is what is going to matter for my students academically.  Citizen Schools has many practical ways to train their staff a variety of teaching techniques. They work very hard to insure that the teaching fellows receive support, mentoring, observations, and supervision. I know for myself that this type of professional instruction helps me to improve the quality of my lessons plans and helps me feel more confident in my ability to do my job. Citizen Schools understands that when I, as a Teaching Fellow, teach students well, I will improve the lives of those students.

There are many pathways to possibilities for my students. I know this to be true. We at Citizen Schools learn to look at a student and see them as a unique individual with talents that just need to be developed, we can help them begin to walk that pathway to possibilities.