5 Reasons I'm Glad I Became a Teaching Fellow

George Ganzenmuller is a Second Year Teaching Fellow at the Edwards Middle School in Charlestown, MA. He is also the editor of this blog.  It’s the tail-end of my second year of service as a Citizen Schools Teaching Fellow, which seems like a natural time to reflect on what it is I’ve been doing for the past two years and why I chose to do it.

My job is difficult to explain to people. It doesn’t fall into an easy, prepackaged career box. Sometimes, I tell people that I’m a teacher. That’s true. I do teach, but I do more than that. Sometimes, I tell people that I serve through AmeriCorps. Also accurate, but it doesn’t paint the whole picture. Still, sometimes, I tell people that I work for an education nonprofit. When they ask what I do at the nonprofit, I usually respond with, “well, how much time do you have?”.

Truth is I do a wide variety of things at Citizen Schools. I teach a math class. I teach an English Language Arts class. I coach a basketball team. I support volunteers who come into the classroom to teach their passions to middle school students through apprenticeships. And that’s just in the afternoons. In the morning, I work at Citizen Schools’ headquarters engaging communities by running our social media platforms and our blog (which you’re currently reading). Oh, and I’m also getting my masters degree in education.

While it can be difficult to explain my job to friends or curious strangers, I think it is this breadth of experiences and responsibilities that made this the perfect post-college position for me. Here’s why:

1.       I’ve had the chance to explore multiple career fields How many people know what they want to do with their lives coming out of college? I knew I was interested in teaching. I knew I was interested in marketing. And, I got the rare chance, pardon the expression, to kill two birds with one stone. Now, I know that I like both career fields - which, I think, is what they call a good problem.

You’ll get a chance to explore, as well. You’ll get a morning partnership somewhere in the nonprofit. Maybe you’re not into marketing, but you’re curious about recruiting and supporting volunteers, or fundraising, or developing lesson plans that will have the most impact on students, or even research and data analysis. There are plenty of opportunities to learn and grow.   2.       I’ve had the chance to work for an organization that is truly innovating the education paradigm It’s nice to feel like the organization you work for is having a positive impact on society. It’s nice to feel like you work for a company or organization that is innovative or on the cutting edge of the industry. It’s doubly nice to have both of those things going for you.

3.       I’ve had the chance to build a wide set of skills

When you’re asked to juggle this many balls (service, teaching, social media, masters work, connecting with students and their families, connecting with volunteers, and more..), you can either figure out how to keep them in the air or you can let them drop. I figured out how to keep them in the air by getting organized, setting priorities, and, the hardest part, not procrastinating.  Now, I feel like whatever my next job is, I’ll be ready for it.

I learned how to teach. My first year in the classroom was certainly a learning process. Some days were less successful than others. This year, the difference in my teaching abilities is visible and the impact I’m having on my students has significantly increased. Now, I feel ready to effectively manage any classroom I enter.

While developing those teaching skills, I’ve also built a strong content marketing knowledge-base. I’ll spare you my resume, but, long-story short, I’m well-suited for marketing jobs now, as well.   4.       I’ve had the chance to have real impact on kids

For the past two years, I’ve taught classrooms of students who’ve been diagnosed with learning, social & emotional, and behavioral challenges. Kids from Boston. Kids who have been bombarded with messages, for much of their lives, that they will not succeed. I’ve had the opportunity to help show them that they can succeed. I’ve seen their eyes opened to new career paths, interests, and passions through apprenticeships. I’ve seen their math capabilities rise through our math enrichment course. I’ve seen their confidence and teamwork abilities grow through daily coaching. And, I’ve seen them develop hope and, more importantly, drive through frank, honest discussion of the challenges and opportunities they’ll encounter on the road to college and career success.

5.       I’ve had the chance to do all this while working on a team Working to close the achievement gap is a daunting task full of unforeseen challenges, setbacks and fatigue. Facing up to those challenges with the support of a team of hardworking, driven people makes an enormous difference. You can collaborate, share best practices, lesson plan together, brainstorm solutions together and, not unhelpfully, gripe together. It’s much easier to face what seems like an insurmountable challenge with a team, rather than on your own. Also, you’re likely to create some lasting friendships with folks that you’ve shared challenges and successes with. And, as our saying goes, teamwork makes the dream work.

Are you considering the applying for the Teaching Fellowship? What questions do you have for current Teaching Fellows?