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The City Year Experiment: To Teach or Not to Teach
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As we prepare to go into the latter half of our City Year, the same question crosses the mind of all corps members across the country: What am I going to do next year? A large percentage of these corps members are interested in teaching, but many are not sure about whether they want to fully commit to the profession. Luckily for them, City Year is the perfect organization to confront these uncertainties, and I believe that the service experience can be an extremely useful indicator as to whether or not teaching is right for you.

I like to think of City Year as an act of experimentation. Not the type of experimentation that you might see in a laboratory or on an episode of the Billy Nye the Science Guy. No, City Year is an act of social and professional experimentation, an opportunity for corps members to gain invaluable growth as they tutor students, build relationships on their teams and develop and implement school initiatives and events. In my mind, City Year's purpose as an organization is two-fold: it not only allows its members to make an amazing impact on students, schools, and communities, but giving them the opportunity to do these things allows them to gain insight into what they want to become. For many corps members, the “City Year experiment” is a defining factor in deciding whether or not they want to go into teaching. Some corps members come into City Year dedicated to becoming teachers, only to discover through their service that the profession is not for them. On the other hand, some corps members come into City Year having never given teaching a second thought, only to discover that it is their dream job. Some people are caught somewhere in the middle, fluctuating between the prospect of teaching versus the appeal of other opportunities. The place where you are on the spectrum doesn't really matter. The only thing that really matters is that you begin to use your service experience to help guide you in the right direction.

But HOW can your service experience help guide you in the right direction? I guess that question is the thing that REALLY matters. Ultimately, I think that answer is up to you. Every corps member has a different City Year experience, and your insights and thoughts that you glean from your City Year, and whether or not they steer you towards teaching, is something that only you can figure out. However, I can tell you what have been some general defining factors for me, and hopefully some of these things may work for you:

  1. Partner Teachers! Pay attention to your partner teacher and talk to them about their experience. This is probably the most useful piece of advice I can give, as their experience can be a useful tool in deciding whether or not teaching is the job for you.
  2. Lesson Planning! Prepare your lesson plans and see if you like doing the work. Teaching is a lot of lesson planning, so if you really love it then that may be pointing you in the right direction.
  3. Dealing with behavioral expectations/redirection! If this is something that you are skilled at, then teaching may be for you.
  4. Find your subject and passion! If you really enjoy the subject area that you tutor in, you can think about teaching in that area!
  5. Public Speaking/Communication! Teaching deals with a lot of public speaking and communication with students and with school staff, so make sure this is something you are comfortable with or willing to grow in before deciding whether teaching is right for you.

These things have been helpful for me in my decision to go into teaching but again, your reasons and decisions about whether or not to go into teaching could be completely different, and that's ok. So, my number one, best piece of advice about whether or not to go into teaching is simply to stay aware and open to your experience. If you do this, really reflect and be open to the lessons of your experience, you will find yourself facing in the right direction.

Matt Spellman is in his second year with City Year and serving as a Team Leader with City Year Providence. He is a graduate of Providence College and studied English and philosophy. Next year Matt will be serving with Boston Teacher Residency, one of City Year's Career Partners, as he continues on his journey to become a teacher.