It is one of the many things I am. I am a girlfriend. I am a daughter. I am the fun aunt. I am a friend. I am a lease analyst. I am a sister. I am a mentor. I am a real estate professional. I am a writer. I am an optimist. I am a member of Red Sox Nation.
I am a Citizen Teacher.
My path to becoming a Citizen Teacher began in August 2009. During the media coverage of Senator Edward Kennedy’s death, I was struck by one photo: a simple photo taken in an unglamorous setting – a public school classroom.
That photo and the story behind it taught me something I never knew about the Senator. For years, he mentored in a public school classroom. It amazed me that a man of his stature and with his hectic schedule took the time to volunteer in an inner city school. It struck me, if he could do it, what could I do?
In 2010, I was introduced to Citizen Schools and their City Building program by one of my clients, a national supporter of the program. I answered the Citizen Schools call of what will you teach by volunteering to teach Real Estate to a group of middle school students at the Salemwood School in Malden, MA.
As I headed to my first class, I was terrified. Positive I’d gotten in over my head, I questioned what I had been thinking when I volunteered. “I can’t teach,” I told myself. And the only other thing I thought I knew for sure was that when the ten week commitment was over, I would never volunteer again and I’d never have to set foot inside a middle school classroom again.
Citizen Schools changes lives. It is not just the students’ lives that are changed. The lives of the volunteers are changed as well. I get to spend 90 minutes a week with a group of enthusiastic and energetic middle school students. It is unlike anything else I do. As a Citizen Teacher, I have had to step out of my comfort zone and well, teach. Being a Citizen Teacher as it turns out is not only fun, but also rewarding.
The rewards and successes come in various forms:
- witnessing the pride on a student’s face when she gets the answer correct to a real estate vocabulary question;
- the simple joy when a student sneaks back to the classroom to say “I love you, Ms. Brown, see you next week;”
- encouraging a student, who struggles to write one sentence until he is able to write six whole sentences for his WOW! presentation;
- watching a reticent boy who barely spoke a word during the first class transform into a prolific speaker and deliver a wonderful presentation at WOW!;
- the text messages I receive from former students letting me know how they are doing.
Ironically after four semesters of being a Citizen Teacher, the two things I thought I knew for sure on that first day: that I can’t teach and that I’d never ever do this again turned out to be untrue. The truth is I can teach and I do. And while it may be true that I never have to do this again, the larger truth is that I want to.
On Tuesday afternoons from 4:15 – 5:45, I can be found in Room 126 at the Dever-McCormack School in Dorchester, MA teaching sixth graders about commercial real estate development or real estate math. By the end of the semester, my students will know what profit and revenue are, how to prepare a construction budget and an operating expense reconciliation statement. Throughout the term, they will have fun playing math games or visiting construction sites, build confidence in their math and public speaking skills, eat a few cookies and hopefully prove that:
Math Fun + Math Practice = Better Math Grades.
And that in itself is the only reward required.