Statement of Purpose
explaining a personal desire to teach
I teach for the most basic of reasons: I enjoy teaching. My desire to teach dates back to elementary and high school tutoring. Though I now might attach various motivations to teaching, the excitement of shared discovery in the classroom is difficult to overstate. When a student realizes he or she is capable of creativity and discovery, the passion to learn that takes hold is a reward beyond measure.
Teachers can and do affect the lives of individuals and their communities. It is important for teachers to believe their students can accomplish almost anything; students are sensitive to teacher attitudes. When you have high expectations, students will meet and exceed those expectations.
For me, teaching expresses a belief in the essential roles of knowledge and creativity in overcoming poverty and social disparities. This is not naïve idealism, as I do realize numerous barriers to class mobility exist in any society. What I am suggesting is that education provides a necessary foundation for intellectual, social, and, yes, vocational self-improvement. I am not suggesting that we promote materialism to motivate students. We should demonstrate to students that knowledge and creativity give them the tools to change both their personal situations and social conditions as a whole.
Education and Poverty
As a student, I encountered economic and social biases. As a teacher, I have witnessed these same biases being expressed by educators from a variety of backgrounds. My decision to teach is at least in part a response to these experiences. I am from Central California, a region the Brookings Institute has labeled “disconnected islands of concentrated poverty.” Fresno topped a 2005 Brookings Institute analysis of concentrated poverty in the United States. The report, Katrina’s Window: Confronting Concentrated Poverty Across America, by Alan Berube and Bruce Katz, compared Fresno unfavorably to New Orleans. The student populations for which I advocate include large numbers of immigrants and children of immigrants, most from impoverished backgrounds.
The demographics of Ivanhoe, the small town where I attended elementary school, illustrate why I am sensitive to issues of educational access:
Census Data as of 2008
|School Population||Hispanic 98%
|Individual Income (2000)||$9,000|
|Household Income (2007)||$30,000|
As of 2004, when I decided to return to graduate school, only 12% of Tulare County residents had a four-year college degree or better, compared to 27% of all Californians. In Ivanhoe, the number of college graduates was “insignificant” according to state data. Potentially the only college graduates students in Ivanhoe interact with on a daily basis are their teachers.
Regardless of the demographics of a university, I want my students to develop a critical social awareness. Even a computer programming course should ask students to consider the ethical implications of software projects. Ideally, my students can explain the choices they make in terms of personal goals and social values. It is not my intention to have students adopt my values: I want students to be able to explain and appreciate their own ethical systems.
Social awareness is not the exclusive domain of specific political beliefs or theories. One of the challenges we face as teachers is that technology has amplified disagreements. The transition to niche media and targeted content that reinforces biases makes it essential that teachers work harder to get our students to think critically about their positions on issues. We should work to raise the level of discourse in society by demonstrating the value of civility and, generally, compromise in a democracy.