As I reflect back on a summer that has been filled with highs and lows and limitless learning opportunities, I remember the goals that I had set for myself before being accepted to the program. In my Breakthrough New York application essay, I had written the following: “As a Neuroscience and Behavior major and premedical student, I hope to lead by example and motivate our students to excel especially in STEM-related fields. I want to show our students that being excited about a potato battery, the gizzard of an earthworm, or the sublimation of dry ice is cool. As a teaching fellow, I hope to not only profoundly impact the lives of our students, but also grow as a leader, listener, and learner.” Through the support of my staff, students, and Teaching Fellows, I believe I accomplished many of these endeavors. May it be dressing up as a scientist or encouraging students to believe in themselves, I have used Breakthrough as a means to spread my undying passion for science amongst the entire student body. What I learned this summer as a teaching fellow also extends far beyond designing effective slideshows or mastering the ITTI model.
Through Breakthrough New York, I have had the opportunity to contribute my positive energy to and learned the importance of maintaining relationships from a community committed to the success of low-income high achieving students. As a Teaching Fellow, I have shown high competency in modeling leadership, teamwork, a sense of community, flexibility, and positive risk taking. From the Science 8 classroom to the cafeteria, I have exemplified the Breakthrough New York core value of being “all in” by participating in all of the cheers enthusiastically, teaching an additional elective than required, and developing a positive classroom culture in Science 8. By showing my class how physics relates to our everyday actions, I have observed students who initially struggled with the content area grow to develop a passion for science. My team teacher and I made an active effort to make our lessons engaging and relatable by including New York City related examples and exciting mediums of technology to portray concepts like acceleration and friction. Furthermore, by performing live demonstrations and introducing a two-day lab to study Newton’s 3 Laws, my team teacher and I have made significant strides in innovating on the floor of excellence. Furthermore, in these examples, I have demonstrated flexibility and my commitment to community leadership.
At Breakthrough this summer, I also discovered the importance of celebrating minor achievements. While it was important to ensure all of our students were demonstrating 80%+ mastery in all of their core academic classes, I realized that it is the small steps students take to improve their performance that help them ultimately achieve their goal. The actions students take to demonstrate upward growth should be honored in and outside of the classroom. One of my students, Unwana, had been struggling to stay on task and complete his homework in all of his academic classes. After an intense parent-teacher conference, I noticed Unwana make positive strides the next day specifically in Science. In his free time, he organized a group of 3 students and brainstormed a Physics related rap. Although Unwana did not show tremendous growth in his scores over those two days, he reflected a greater enthusiasm and interest for science. Touched and inspired by Unwana and his group, I then realized the importance of positive narration and praises as long term motivators of academic success.
In the future, I will continue to apply the professional code of conduct, organizational strategies, leadership skills, and growth mindset I have learned from the Breakthrough community to my campus, family, and workplace. Through this internship, I have understood how to effectively manage my time and work as a positive member on a team. Moreover, I look forward to pushing myself to lean into discomfort more often by trying extra-curricular activities and internships outside of the world of medicine.
It has been an honor to serving for Breakthrough New York this summer, so much so, that my experiences as a Teaching Fellow have inspired me to create a lifetime goal of serving the underserved youth of low-income communities.
After three continuous, rigorous weeks of training, teaching fellows were finally prepared to lead and teach effectively in the classroom. With over hundred hours of workshops and practice, my co-teacher and I felt confident and enthusiastic to welcome our students on the first day of Breakthrough. As students poured into the school at 7 AM on June 27th, teachers flooded the hallways and sidewalks cheering in celebration of the first day of the summer program. At this moment, I realized that Breakthrough New York is a nonprofit organization that not only promotes high academic achievement, but also creates a culture for spirit. After a quick introduction and series of motivational chants, students proceeded to their classes. Swamped with delight, anxiety, and anticipation, I rushed to my classroom, ready to turn the pages to a new chapter in my life.
And I survived. Over the past two weeks, my co-teacher (Elaine) and I have introduced our students to the Scientific Method, techniques to analyze data, and the theory of kinematics. From brainstorming demos to make drier topics like the scientific method or distance engaging to developing the skills to improvise my lesson plan on the spot, I have seen myself grow immensely as a teacher and learner. Elaine and I have pushed students to apply terms like velocity and displacement to real life examples.
As physics teachers, we aim to ensure that students not only demonstrate a strong mastery of the material but also enjoy the process of learning. So far, students have been most responsive to lessons that include hands-on experiments or feature examples that are relatable to the New York City scene (for example, calculating the velocity of the 6 train).
In addition, every week the grade team teachers gather together during an after school meeting series: Kid Talk. During Kid Talk, teaching fellows discuss in detail the challenges they have been having with certain students in their class. Collaboratively, teachers and Breakthrough New York staff members create an action plan for each struggling student; these action plans are detailed and contain a measurable, time-sensitive goal. While the focus of this meeting is kept on students of concern, if there is extra time, fellows also brainstorm ways to praise students who are exceeding expectations.
In the upcoming weeks, I look forward to introducing my students to Newtown’s Three Laws of Motion through innovative demonstrations and relatable examples. My goal for future lessons is to fundamentally push students to create their own experiments that correspond to the theories of kinematics. An area of growth for my team teacher and I is maintaining a good balance between hands-on activities and traditional lecture-based instruction. Outside of the classroom, I hope to foster stronger relationships with all of the Breakthrough New York students.
I will push my students who are struggling in science to believe in themselves and adopt the growth mindset; they must realize that failure is not a permanent condition and success is always possible if one works hard and stays ambitious. I want to inspire them to research more about the endless possibilities in education with a focus on STEM can lead them to. Furthermore, I am excited to share my passion and thirst for knowledge and the role science has played in molding me into the critical thinker and problem solver I am.
Breakthrough Collaborative is an internationally recognized non-profit organization that motivates high potential and passionate middle school students from underserved communities visualize the path to high school and college. Through the unique “Students Teaching Students” model, recruited college-bound teaching fellows work cooperatively with their students to create a community that strives to advance social equity through education. As a Teaching Fellow, I look forward to spending a summer teaching and a lifetime leading.
At the Breakthrough New York site, training commenced on Tuesday June 9th. The three-week, intensive “Orientation Week,” aims to prepare teaching fellows for the academic rigors, classroom management challenges, and professional assessment they will face throughout the summer program. As teacher effectiveness is the primary determining factor of student achievement, the Breakthrough staff has worked tirelessly to explain and break down the components of their successfully tried and tested Intern Teaching Training Initiative (ITTI). The ITTI model is a unique system carefully crafted to lead novice teachers and underserved students to success.
During O-Week, fellows were also trained to develop a plan of action when faced with classroom management challenges. In addition to being explicit with class routines through pro-active management, teachers are required to act immediately and purposefully when confronted with student misbehavior. Another key component of classroom management is emotionally empowering the students by motivating them to adopt a growth mindset. As a fellow, I must lead by example and show students that through hard work and a solidified work ethic, achievement is tangible. As an 8th Grade Physics instructor, I look forward to sharing my passion for science and the power of STEM with my fellow students. By helping them develop problem- solving and critical thinking skills, I am interested in seeing students eventually become unafraid to tackle challenges. I am excited to make Physics a hands-on experience with several chances to apply Newton’s laws to innovative and rigorous lab experiments. Furthermore, as a Barnard science major, I am going to make an active effort to break the gender binaries that exist within the STEM-related fields. I hope to inspire women to overcome stereotypes to further their interests in a historically male dominated field.