This is the story of how my life was completely changed by 17 freshman in a random F block English class. Photo by Margaret Ramsey.
By Amanda Crisci
Growth is an unusual thing. It comes from many different mediums and from many different people. To say I’ve grown a lot this year would be a complete understatement. Looking back to where I started, I would never had predicted the lessons I’ve learned or how I learned them.
The biggest growth I’ve seen in myself this year has come through my job as an assistant teacher (TA) to English I this year. If you know me at all, you know that I am constantly talking about this. I find myself saying things like “One of my freshmen said this hilarious thing the other day” and “Sorry, I can’t go to Starbucks I’m hanging out with my freshmen.”
But, originally, I did not plan on being a TA. In fact, there wasn’t a program, agenda, or guide book to what being a TA entailed. When Ms. Sincoff emailed me offering the opportunity to be a TA, I had no idea what to expect.
Everything sort of happened as time went on. I went into Ms. Ramsey’s office and asked her if she’d be willing to take an unpredictable journey with me to see what an English TA program would end up being. Then I met all of her F block students. And suddenly I was there, in front of a room of 17 14-year olds, trying to get them to understand MLA formatting.
I had absolutely no clue what I was doing. Sure, I had taught sixth graders basic reading skills at Peninsula Bridge for two summers, but ninth graders were much more cunning. They had stealthy ways of getting me off topic, and at times they pushed me to the brink of insanity. There were times where I’d just want to throw in the towel and exclaim, “I literally do not know how to explain this metaphor a seventh way!”
But my class of 17 bright-eyed and curious freshman showed me so much more.
Their zest for life and undiluted passion inspired me in a time where my own academic life was threatening to turn me into a cynical zombie. Obviously not all of them were avid English folks, but in conversations with them, I was reminded of how to care, and why to care. Hearing someone describe their love of music to me or their fascination with basketball or their journeys of self discovery was invaluable.
I was reminded to enjoy the things I cared about and appreciate the learning I received in even my hardest classes.
In addition, they taught me a lot about myself. I found myself growing an inexplicable attachment to my F block class. I found myself looking forward to every extra help session I got to hold and I looked forward to meeting with every student who wanted to improve at English. As I got to know them, I developed a deep attachment to their growth as a learner and person.
This really hit me earlier this semester when we were in the rhetoric unit. I found myself prioritizing helping them with their speeches over my own homework or assignments. I know who ever is reading this is probably scolding me for devoting more time to others’ grades over my own junior year grades (aka THE most important year of grades), but I couldn’t help it. I so strongly desired to see them express their ideas in the way they wanted to and I wanted to see them feel like they were making a lasting point in the minds of their peers.
For example, I worked with one boy on his speech almost everyday. We went back and forth through a Google doc and he came to every one of my extra help sessions. From him I saw a motivation that surpassed the GPA driven mindset of the typical Menlo student. From him I saw a desire to effect the lives of others in a positive way, which I now see is what I have been trying to do this entire year through being a TA.
So when that boy and the rest of the F block class got up to deliver their speeches, I was beaming with pride. I saw the growth in their ideas and I saw how much more mature and deep their thoughts were compared to when I first stepped into the class.
Or when one student asked me “Aren’t you a junior? Don’t you have your own work to do? Why are you helping us? Why do you care?” And to that I responded, “When you change the world one day it’ll be enough to know that I helped you learn to write coherent sentences in 9th grade.”
Knowing that I was somehow a factor in their personal and academic growth has become the only satisfaction I need out of my junior year. And I think that is the point of teaching. To foster the growth within another so that they can better themselves and the world around them. As cheesy and cookie cutter as that sounds, I now believe the truth in it.
So I hope you, dear reader of this fabulous publication, have the chance to be a teacher in your life. To experience the challenges and joys of growing another’s mind. I can honestly say there is nothing more satisfying (or fun).
And to those who put up with me throughout this year: F block and all of Ramsey’s kids, Some of Mr. Taylor and Ms. Stubbs’ kids, Ms. Sincoff and Ms. Ramsey, thank you for showing me how to care again, and most importantly, what to care about.
To all those I have helped this year: Good luck on your final tomorrow. You've worked so hard for this and I know that you will absolutely crush it.