I recently watched a video feature by the New York Times, documenting a New York City school that reopened during the pandemic. It wasn’t my first time watching this video, but the wave of emotion still felt pretty fresh.
I came into the DOE in December 2020, just before COVID vaccines were available, and it was abundantly clear that the city and individual schools were still trying to figure out how to teach and support children during this new normal of ours.
My first foray into the DOE was a one day assignment at an elementary school in the north Bronx. I had just declined a long-term opportunity, knowing that I wanted the opportunity to ease myself into the DOE and being at a school. The school seemed impressed with my work, as I was invited back for a few more days, and eventually a week. By the end of that month, I had an offer from the assistant principal to stay on as a long-term substitute teacher, co-teaching a blended remote ICT class. This was during the time of hybrid online learning and student cohort pods. While the class had an assigned general education and special education teacher, it did not have a dedicated online teacher who met with students during their cohort’s remote learning days.
I mentioned that seeing this video was an emotional experience. I think that was largely in part due to me having had so many of the same conversations with my co-teacher and students. There was an unrelenting umbra that loomed over the school as we did our best to create a positive and enriching environment for these kids while facing fluctuating positive case numbers, concerns about sick family members, and more. The students were scared, and I was too in many ways.
I was probably a substitute teacher for about 8 months before I started to seriously consider teaching as something that I wanted to pursue professionally. As summer 2021 quickly flew by, I had just finished my first long-term assignment at the elementary school and really enjoyed working with the city’s first iteration of the Summer Rising program. I learned about alternative certification programs like the New York City Teaching Fellows and the New York City Teaching Collaborative, but I had brushed the idea off long enough that I missed the deadline to apply to be a 2021 NYC Teaching Fellow. Not wanting to make the same mistake again, I expeditiously submitted my application for the 2022 cohort of the Teaching Collaborative as soon as it had opened.
Some teachers told me not to pursue the idea of teaching in the NYCDOE. I heard the same arguments ad nauseam: comments about how teaching wasn’t the same and how it’s changed so much since they began teaching. Some educators I spoke to were more apathetic, expressing that they only had X more years to go or that they spent their working life teaching, and it was all that they really know how to do. It’s not hard to find educators with negative perspectives on the NYCDOE and teaching. I certainly don’t expect to love every minute of every day as a classroom teacher, but I’m hopefully that the positives will outweigh the negatives.
When I applied for the Collaborative, I set one firm condition for myself: I would only teach as long as I thought it was enjoyable. I didn’t want to become jaded like other teachers that I spoke to, and I resolved to make the most out of my experience in the NYCDOE.
I came to the DOE after becoming incredibly disillusioned with my previous career path (higher education student affairs) and an eight month stint at Dunkin’ during the height of the pandemic. I’m not quite sure what this new chapter in my professional journey will have in store, but I’m excited to see where it’ll take me.