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Why I Teach

Title – Why I teach
By – NG

I started to attend college in 1996 with the full intention of becoming a lawyer. My cousin, who had just passed her BAR exam, suggested that I major in English so I could get the comprehension, analytic, and vocabulary skills that I would need to get me through law school. I majored in English Lit for all four years of college. Just as I was sending in my applications for law school my senior year, I had to register for my last semester. I went to register for my classes and found out that one of my electives was closed out. I could not get into the pre-law class that I intended to take. The registrar suggested that I take a class called “Teaching Adult Literacy”, since it wasn’t closed out, and drop/add into the law class the following semester. I did so.

My last semester in college began and I attended the first session of “Teaching Adult Literacy” just to see what it was about. I found out that the class met once a week and in addition, I had to complete 72 hours of volunteer work at an inner city adult learning center to complete the class. I was carrying 18 credits and was involved in a time-consuming theatrical production, so I was definitely not prepared for an extra 72 hours of community service. Still, I was intrigued and went to the orientation at “The Learning Bank” in inner city Baltimore.

When I arrived at the learning center, the coordinator informed me that they were low on volunteers and teachers that day and asked if rather than having my orientation, I would be willing to fill a teaching position. I was hesitant, but agreed to help in any way I could. I was surprised when she handed over a math text book and told me to head to room 201 to teach a GED level math class!

I walked into the room and saw the faces of about 25 students that were my age and older staring up at me. I sucked it up and began my unprepared lesson. That 45 minutes felt more like 45 hours, but I got through it. As I was packing my bags to leave a young African-American male approached me. He asked if I was a teacher. I thought, “Was I so bad that it was that obvious that I’m not a teacher” I replied, “No, I’m a student at Loyola studying to be a lawyer.” His next statement came as a complete shock. He said, “Well, now you’re a teacher and I think you should change you major to teaching so you can teach kids and keep them out of the position I’m in now. I never got my High School degree because I didn’t like any of my teachers, but if you were my teacher, maybe I would have stayed in school.”

I left the building, went home, threw away each of my law school applications and called Georgian court College to request an application to their teaching certification program.

I have completed half of the program and have been substitute teaching since September. I would never dream of changing my career path now!

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