There were a total of three personal statements required for the USC Masters in Teaching program, and an optional section. Being the writer that I am, I filled all four sections to the word limit – lo and behold, I got in!
I’d like to share with you one that I wrote THE NIGHT BEFORE it was due. Please keep in mind that I had been working on all statements for months in advance, under the guidance of multiple mentors, and with meticulous revising and editing over several long, sleepless nights. I’ve also been working as a college counselor and essay editor for the past year – I knew/know how to write the perfect admissions essay.
But right when I was about to hit “Submit,” something just felt off. This wasn’t the me who I wanted to convey.
Taking a leap of chance (corny, IKR), I completely rewrote one of the statements. And I hope that through sharing this, you’re able to learn why my next goal in life is to be a teacher.
TLDR; trust your intuition! It’ll workout if it’s meant to be.
Describe an experience in which you found yourself changing your views about a significant topic or a significant person in your life. What prompted the change? How do you think that change will affect the teacher you will become?
Tyler erratically raised the worksheet that I had just handed out into the air, daring me to take a step forward.
“Don’t-” I managed to say, before the page was torn in half and crumpled into balls.
“Tyler, that’s enough!”
But that only seemed to push him further over the edge. He unfolded one of the halves, lifted it to his mouth, and literally, ate his homework.
When I started teaching creative writing at [UNNAMED COMPANY I’M NO LONGER AT] in February 2017, I thought I had it all figured out. The job fell so naturally; I connected with my students and did not encounter any “bad eggs.” My tasks posed simple enough, as there seemed to be no speed bumps, no hiccups, nothing for the months I was there.
That was, until I met Tyler. He was in the third grade when he first enrolled in my course. In a class of ten, he was always the laziest, most nonchalant and troublesome. The kid obviously dreaded coming to class each day, despite whatever persuasion I attempted. Since I taught at an afterschool learning center and not a “real school,” it made sense as to why he did not take me seriously.
I tried all my usual tactics, enforced my rules but to no avail, and even offered to tutor him one-on-one in case he was swayed from group settings. The more attentive I became to his lackadaisical nature, the quicker it into evolved into… rebellion. During the entire duration of one two-hour class, he pretended to snore. He ate paper. He locked himself inside the bathroom and refused to egress. I was at my wit’s end with this kid.
Tyler’s response to my efforts convinced me that if something was this hard to do, maybe it wasn’t for me. I sincerely wanted to give up. Because of one student and innumerable minor excuses I made up at the time, I reevaluated what a career meant to me. Is this worth it? Should I look for something easier? A job behind a desk?
That was until I coaxed him out of the bathroom that day: “Tyler, I know we got off on the wrong start. Whatever it is, we’ll get over it. I’m not angry, just please let me know what I can do to help you.”
With those words, Tyler shut off the faucet that had been running and shuffled his eight-year-old feet towards the door. When he opened it, I noticed the moisture that had welled around his bloodshot eyes. “My grandpa died,” he said.
From that point forward, I shed all the expectations I had for students. I learned that I must keep trying in all I do, despite the difficult circumstances I may face with any student, because I could never fully grasp all else that occurs in a student’s life. I was fortunate enough to be trusted by Tyler. After knowing of his grandfather’s passing, I realized that all he needed was for someone to understand him, and I promised that I would.
Teaching extends beyond pedagogy, delivering content on a whiteboard, lecturing. It demands genuine compassion and care for your students. It took Tyler for me to understand the true ups and down of being a teacher, and how personally invested I could be in my students. I wrongfully held onto a belief that teachers were supposed to keep distance from their students so as to prevent bias, but this experience delineated that whole investment clearly is the better option. I wish to see through to my students’ success, and I am prepared to do whatever it takes.
I could only have learned this lesson through first-hand experience; with the diverse group of schools that MAT of USC places their candidates in, I know that I will continue to grow, love, and prosper.