To whom it may concern,
At the time of writing this, I am a graduate student. I am working on a teaching credential so that I can become a certified public school educator at the middle and high school levels in California. What you are seeing on this blog is not my expertise but my personality. I am fully aware that you will probably come across it, if you are to look me up on my Twitter or you were one of the lucky few who have received my business card.
If you ask my references, there are a few qualifications that are consistent. I’m intelligent, a good writer, outgoing. People may not remember my name, but they remember my face or my actions. I stand out like a sore thumb in a crowd of people who are just skating by.
But if you don’t trust the people whom I have called upon as reference, then perhaps you would rather hear it from the man himself, the one you might be considering for hire. Very well. I understand that no candidate is perfect, and right now, it is an employers’ market. We, the potential hire, has to bend over backwards, just to figure out what it is you want us to do. However, I’m not so naive as to think that the hiring process is a one-sided deal where I have to sound like the perfect candidate for your company. I’m interviewing you, too. But I suppose a little more background on me is in order before that happens.
Here are a few things I would like you to know about me, that will always be apparent if you want to work with me.
1. A Well-Rounded Education is Important to Me
I’ve gone through a lot of schools. Some of these experiences I have grown to be fond of. Others, I wish things could have been done differently. I have 2 Bachelor degrees to my name: one in Computer Information Technology, another in Philosophy. Only one of them is accredited for education.
I have a very clear understanding of what I value in education, but I also understand how multiple values that go into education work. No, I’m not talking about those who advocate exclusively to Science, the Arts, Reading, or Business or something. That’s what level 1 advocates of education focus on. Liberal Arts; Vocational; General ed. where students naively believe they have a clear direction in their lives or none; I’ve done it all. As far as colleges are concerned, I’ve been to 4 of them, and thankfully I am only in debt to one.
For me, I choose to take a student-centered approach to education. I have a constructivist strategy that focuses more on projects and activities where students discover the process of what they need to know on their own, where I am but the facilitator of the process. Inquiry-based lessons are my forté, and I am more interested in what students come up with, and I get joy out of watching them reach that “aha!” moment when complicated concepts make sense to them.
But with such an active learning environment I also understand that there are faults even within my own teaching style. Personally I teach myself as a perennialist, discussing concepts to the highest standard, looking at the big picture for how it applies to everyday life, over what it is. I do this because I like to find my own meaning to things that others have but only analyzed with abstract ideas that are void of any purpose at all. The latter is the essentialist approach, and as important as it is to understand ideas for what they are, I find that style to lack color that makes learning interesting. You want students with better learning performance? Motivate them to like what they do.
This was ultimately the reason I turned back on my IT degree. I came out of the program bored out of my skull, and as useful as I think technology is in general, I couldn’t picture myself doing it for 5 years, let alone for the rest of my life. And besides…
2. I like to Work with Children
Maybe you think my work experience on my resume is rather dull, and you would be right. I doubled as a full-time student and part-time Audio/Visual Technician for a good 5 years, none of which involved anything with children, unless you count the number of times I’ve had to coordinate with youth groups. However, if you look at my volunteer experience, I’ve done plenty of things here and there, which I regretfully wished I had more time to devote to. My mother tells me that I can’t call those experiences legitimate work, because I only volunteered as an elementary school bio-science instructor for 1 hour a week for a year, a camp counselor for a JA heritage middle school program for 1 week, tutored Algebra and SAT Prep for home school students sporadically for 2 years, or the time that I assisted teachers at my past church’s Vacation Bible School for a week. They apparently don’t count because they’re not full-time, dedicated experiences, the things that you guys apparently look out for.
They may have been small hiccoughs in my experience, and they weren’t always perfect things to deal with all the time. But I liked working with children because their quirks are a lot easier to handle under pressure than having to work with disgruntled adults under a similar pressure. I also find that whatever kids are interested in these days can be amusing in their own right, and when they’re in a good mood, you can’t shut them up from talking about the things they like.
But if there’s anything I like about working with children, it’s that they are willing to listen to you. They may not like what they hear all the time, they may not do what you want them to do afterwards, but in those moments when you have their respect, children are curious enough to learn something from their adult overlords, because they perceive you as the one in charge. Some adults like to talk down to children so that they can speak their language, but in my experience, that relationship never works. Me, I’d prefer the method of treating children like adults, respect their views simply as that, but still communicate high standards in hopes that they might understand it in the future. I don’t get that same respect from adults because they don’t have that kind of relationship with me. A lot of adults already have a solid view of the world that is unshakable, and anything that detracts from that view angers them, because they just want to be right. I respect that patience is required when dealing with anyone, but I think I have an easier time being patient for children than I am with being patient for adults.
If you want consistent work experience, go ahead and check my 5 years of Audio-Visual stuff for a church that I don’t want to be associated with anymore, or my dealings with being in the Ticketing Office for Anime Expo, which has been going strong for 3 years now. But these are experiences where I work with adults.
3. I’m Not Religious Anymore
Oh, there was once a time when I was a naive, die-hard, God-fearing Christian. One that may be reflected in a lot of the work experiences you may have seen me accumulate on my resume as well as other places. Unlike my other peers, my teenage years were spent blindly following this idea that Christianity was the best thing ever, and being able to express that freely was my right, even at the expense of the feelings of those who doubted religion, let alone non-Christians. I used to enjoy going to youth Christian camps, doing inner-city mission work at food banks and soup kitchens under some ambiguous spiritual purpose, collect Christian rock music, even go against everything my urban roots would have hated and listened to a lot of Country music. Of course, I also had the fascinations of an odd teenager that actually liked critiquing scripture, analyzing everything from the canonical Pentateuch, the Gospels, and even tackled the Revelation, all with a moderately leftist perspective. I was the very epitomé of a Christian nerd.
For a long time, I thought this was important to me, but sadly, my relationship with Christ isn’t what it used to be, and I warn young Christians now that their world isn’t so happy-go-lucky as they may make it out to be. You see, unlike the majority of Christians out there, my family are active members of a mainline United Methodist Church that is generally more progressive than whatever garbage you see in the news. Both my parents as well as aunts and uncles lead various organizations under the church, mostly administrative. Not a day goes by it seems, where I have to listen to them argue not about family matters or their spirituality, but the business side of the church. You know, the part of the church that makes the rest of it function. The part that is most detached from what I used to like about the church, namely the spirituality and canonical criticism. And honestly, it is because I ended up seeing both sides the religion that I was born into that I ultimately hated all of it.
I remember being challenged in a philosophical discussion once about faith (or lack thereof), and at the time, I always found it amusing that my atheist peers would only attack ideas that came from the fundamentalist sect of Christianity. I made the careless mistake of saying that not all churches are like that, to which I discovered that’s the wrong way to approach the problem. You see, unlike other religions in America, Christianity is the dominant religion, to the extent that it has crossed over into the secular. It is a religion that frankly can’t see itself for its flaws because for centuries, it has never been questioned around here. Any criticism against it is met with aggressive opposition, and any attempts at bridging Christianity to other religions has always been an exercise of “they’re just like us” rather than “we’re just like them,” or in the worst cases, straight up appropriating cultural practices to get more people to convert to Christianity with no respect to the beliefs and values that are already established.
As someone who never particularly liked going with the grain, I appreciate that religion is something that, at least on paper, is something that can be freely expressed in this country. However, I also think that religion is ultimately a matter of community than one of serving an abstract being that fallible humans have wildly diverging opinions about such values, and such divisions have caused wars, both in the conventional and unconventional ways, where religion is the guise for power.
I honestly don’t have a problem with Christianity, at least my personal understanding of it as a practice of critiquing the Holy Bible for its meaning or lack thereof in our present day. That’s literally what I do with Philosophy. But I do have a lot of problems with Christians because they have a tendency to blindly accept the so-called “Word of God” as told by human beings, without even realizing that such ideas are in fact attachments to fallible ideas, whether it’s advocating for dangerous political ideologies, or engaging in business ventures to please the masses.
4. Anarchy is Organized Chaos
I don’t belong to a political party. Never have, ever since I turned 18 and registered to vote for the first time. Sure, I still participate in elections –including the local ones that I personally think are more important than over-saturated national ones– even volunteered as a poll worker a few times. Someone’s gotta do it, right?
However, I also think that relying solely on the government to do stuff is of no benefit to anyone’s way of life, and especially now that I can’t go a day without seeing what happens at the top, it becomes clear that reliance on a corrupt government body is even more dangerous. It is for these reasons that I wouldn’t be considered a Statist by any means, and as ironic as it sounds for applying for a local government position such as teaching in a public school, I really don’t trust such the current system either.
Here’s the thing though. I’m not going to get my way by trying to reform the entire thing, frankly because you’d have to destroy most of humanity just to establish that. I’d rather focus on doing things differently from the inside. I humbly accept that I am a greenhorn when it comes to working in one of the most bureaucratic fields in the world, but I don’t think that it is without its problems. After all, you’re expecting an already chaotic world to conform to rules that even the most leading authorities on managing such a behemoth don’t even understand.
I don’t know of whatever stupid impressions you’ve had of anarchy from mainstream media, your religion, your workplace, or your crazy conspiracy theorist cousin that everyone laughs at at family gatherings, but anarchy is a political disposition that ultimately sides with humanity over authority. Our social constructs as they are, are already chaotic. And every system that is established to force everyone to conform to such ideals will be oppressive to someone, further separating those with power from those without. It is a society without freedom.
I remember sitting in an ethics class once, where we were asked in a thought experiment: “if there were no laws tomorrow, what would it be like?” I immediately found the conversation among my peers turn to saying that everything would be thrown into chaos, with rampant murder, thievery, and rape all across the board. Impressions that I swear capitalist establishments like the film industry probably convinced a lot of my peers of as it is. I told the class that I believed that if laws were to no longer exist tomorrow, people would ultimately organize themselves into the tightest knit communities they had where they knew that they could trust each other, perhaps grow as they come to trust more. And they would do so by essentially making their own laws.
I was surprised when my professor told me that this is the anarchist’s response.
By no means do I think that’s a perfect response. If it were, then all of life’s problems would suddenly disappear. I doubt that’s the case though, because even within anarchist circles, there are divergences in terms of what anarchy is, or how it can be effective, even within anarchist communities. But rather than see that differences are the cause of in-fighting, a lot of us tend to recognize that in-fighting is bound to happen, and it would help us to grow in some respects when we do. I think that anarchy played a part in every political revolution that has happened in the history of all revolutions, but I also think that achieving anarchy is a slow process. To be a true anarchist, you have to act in a way like a revolution is happening everyday, but still have the patience to recognize that overturning an entire system is impossible.
5. I am a Philosopher First
Pragmatic approaches? I’ll do them. Organized and effective lesson plans? Works for me. Giving your kids a worthwhile education that will inspire them to become outstanding citizens? That’s pretty much the reason I want to teach in the first place.
Just look at my Facebook page as well as this blog. Education, Science, Maths, Culture, History, Literature, Anime… I have a lot of interests. So many that it’s incredibly hard for me to focus on just one thing that I like about my life, while juggling all of the responsibilities I have as a normal, mundane adult. However, I guarantee that every aspect of my life comes with critical thinking, and there has never been a way for me to separate myself from that, as far back as my first taste of anything philosophy-related since my own teenage years. And I think my students will benefit from that experience as well.
I’m under the impression that being a teacher in America is similar to that of being an astronaut. You are an expert, a hero, a mentor, a counselor, a facilitator, an authority, a guardian, a manager, a bureaucrat, a public servant, all rolled into one, and very few people ever care about you as a human being. I say this is like being an astronaut because to me, astronauts are also placed under this mad expectation to be all of those things with a very similar pay-off. That, and both of these are professions that are highly invested by various levels of government, and public opinions of both of our professions are met with diverging interests and absurdly high expectations that the average citizen may never appreciate.
That, and I’m also partial in saying that Space Brothers (宇宙兄弟) is my favorite anime of all time, and eagerly followed the history of the Space Race, as well as follow a lot of news about astrophysics and stuff, so I have mad respect for astronauts.
But whatever profession I end up doing in life, of which I’ve already had several in the X years that I’ve been doing this crazy adult thing, I will always consider my position as a philosopher first. From here, I see the world as my critical thinking grounds. From here, I can adjust to your impossibly mundane rules and find meaning in the ones that I think are useful, and tweak or get rid of the ones that are unjust. There is a joke among non-philosophers that a philosophy degree won’t get you anywhere, all because they have never understood philosophy for how it works in the first place. You speak so much about how the world makes sense this one way, but I find that the world works so many different ways, for so many different people.
It is from this understanding of diverse values that a good educator must recognize in a world where we are responsible for your children, and put a lot of effort into sorting out these complexities. Without that level of care, we convince our children that nothing makes sense. And from there, they will follow all kinds of ideas that sound more appealing that ultimately divide our ever-growing communities rather than help us to work things out together.
I say this to you now, because I’ve been forced to work with people that I didn’t like, and only I was reprimanded for causing so-called “dysfunctionality” for their mistakes. If you want a good teacher, you have to find someone that is willing to be uncomfortable in challenging some of the hardest questions that life has to offer. Someone who has a thick skin for when things don’t go their way. And see for themselves that no matter how much the system will protect them, it does not protect everyone. I make a lot of enemies with the alt-right as well as so-called “liberals” who have sympathized with their cause, and a lot of that has to do with how many times I’ve made mistakes by letting such ideologies walk all over me.
Yes, I’ve had to learn when to hold my tongue. When to just let an egotistical maniac do what they had to do to keep their job, while I desperately have to fight to get my own. I even thought of suicide at a point where I thought that I had no more options left. But none of those things would ever amount to the respect and responsibility I have for my children, the youth of today.
And when all is said and done about our supposedly “broken” education system, isn’t that who we are all most concerned about?