California Teacher Credential Program Letter of Interest
December 4, 1993
My goal, if accepted for graduate study at -------- College, is to earn my teaching credential and gain the theoretical knowledge necessary for effective and professional teaching at the secondary school level.
My reasons for seeking to enter the profession of teaching are my love of learning and the hope that I could impart some of that love to my students. In my own life, I have been involved in numerous disciplines which have involved long study: the martial art of Hwa Rang Do, the French language, classical piano, history and international relations while at the university. After graduation from UCLA, I taught myself Spanish. I love learning new things and hope to continue an active and curious intellectual life throughout my life. I am convinced there is a magic to learning and that newly gained knowledge is a transforming thing. The ill fortunes of life can strip you of all transient things: possessions, wealth, loved ones - even your physical freedom. But no one can ever take away your education or your ability to think. As a teacher, I would above all seek to stress to my students the importance of independent and critical thinking. If I could influence even a small minority of my students as to the value of developing into an insightful, well-spoken and thoughtful adults, I would consider my career to be fulfilling.
I would like to direct my career in education towards bilingual teaching. In the past, both with the UCLA Police Department and as an Orange County Reserve Deputy Sheriff, I have spent much time working directly with the Latino population. It has been an enormously rewarding experience for and me and I would like to continue to serve in this manner in the more positive environment of the classroom. I have spent time in the past teaching adolescents martial arts and especially loved training new employees in the UCLA Police Department. In law enforcement, I feel I was very much more effective in dealing with influencable youthful offenders that I was with hard-core adults. In teaching, I hope to find a more natural fit for my talents and abilities. And like in law enforcement, I know there is a large need for persons within the system able to serve the specific and extensive unique needs of the immigrant population. I feel very much a sense of duty and desire to be of service.
I have already started the process to become a teacher by taking National Teacher Exam in English and in Social Studies. I passed both tests easily, scoring in the top 5% of all teachers in the English section. Later on, I hope to pass the French, Spanish, and possibly music sections. I am also, of course, planning to take the LAUSD fluency test (LDS) as well as the State Bilingual Certification of Competency (BCC). In the future, I hope to gain a Ph.D in English literature. I presently work for Nikkon, Inc., a Japanese-owned multinational corporation as a Spanish/English Representative, dealing mainly with our clients in Puerto Rico. However, I hope to soon start teaching with the LAUSD while earning my teaching credential.
I hope this statement of purpose allows you to understand more who I am and why I want to become a teacher - as well as perhaps judge what kind of teacher I might be. Again, I would like to humbly state my desire to enter the teacher credential program at ---------- College.
Richard James Geib
The following letter was written to my sister, on her first day of the job as a high school English teacher. As opposed to the above application to a teacher education program when I had zero practical teaching experience, at the time of writing below I had been teaching for almost seven years.February 24, 2000
First of all, I hope this message finds you well after your first day of teaching. How did it go? Were the kids looking you up and down curiously? Were they sizing you up? Did you feel like you knew what you were doing? Did you start this journey off on the right foot?
I would say a few things as you embark on this job. Although you only have until June with these classes, never forget that teaching is not a sprint but a marathon. I think you have gained an appreciation into how much the kids can exhaust you and sap your energy in your visits to my school, so pace yourself with one eye on three months down the line. If you get so exhausted that you cannot keep your energy up day after day after day, then your student will not benefit. (As mom used to tell me, "If the parents fails to give themselves oxygen first when an airplane decompressurizes because they are trying to help their kids first, then the parents will fall unconscious first and the kids will surly die.") There are a nearly infinite amount of tasks that the "perfect" teacher could get done -- all the way from being utterly prepared in every lesson to grading all work ASAP to calling parents, dealing with problem students, answering all the stupid memos and BS paperwork given out by the administration, etc., etc. You have only so much energy to expend every day on your job before you start getting miserable, and so use it wisely in the way you feel will most profoundly and directly benefit your students. All the rest you can let slide without any qualms of conscience, in my opinion. Prioritize. Your students and their learning comes first.
Next, give yourself some slack when you are just beginning -- it takes a year or so just to feel comfortable in any new job, after all, and they say it takes 3-5 years to become truly effective as a teacher. If as a new teacher you bring enthusiasm and good intentions into your job, that is great! But teaching takes time to feel comfortable with, and so you need to look at the long view and be happy with perhaps less than 100% in your lessons. Working with teenagers constantly humbles me, and I cannot even tell you how many times I have had lessons fall flat on me (and even turn into disasters). Many times I have left a classroom and said to myself, "That class was so toxic! Students yelling at each other! Yelling at me! Me losing my cool with them! UGGGH!" Let it pass, go home and lick your wounds, and then wake up the next morning ready to try again with hopefully more success.
The kids in your classes have much more recent experience than you in school, and so they might have the upper hand, so to speak -- at least at first. You want to do things well, Katie, and so you might be less than content with your first year goes. However, give yourself some slack and celebrate your victories and things that go well. This is not an easy job. Simply making it to the end of the semester is a victory of sorts for every teacher -- even for the ones who have been teaching for more years than we have been alive.
After a particularly dispiriting day at work I will go home and read the following letter:
...so you just wake up the next morning and "wind the clock" and try again. A teacher without hope is impotent. Hope for your own professional growth, hope for your student's futures, hope for the world. But such "bad days" have their lessons to teach also, and we can at least hope not to repeat them. An experienced teacher is an often bloodied one that has acquired the scrupulous instincts of the well flogged critic; through failure and in consequently getting burned while "on stage" in front of 30 students, you try to avoid similar pain by trying something different in the future -- hopefully with more success. The burned hand is, after all, the best cure for avoiding the fire again. It is probably no different in junior attorneys or other professionals new on the job. But in teaching teenagers you often have hard, unforgiving clients who will take shots at you even when everything is going smoothly. Teaching teenagers is a contact sport, so to speak, and not for the thin-skinned.
I don't want to scare or make you paranoid about being a teacher. If some kids make you want to wring their necks, I have no doubt you will be so fond of others that you want to adopt them. And when it goes well, teaching can be so much fun! I am sure you will see much of that at your school over the next few months. The kids keep you feeling young, and many of them will be appreciative of your efforts (even as they would never tell you as much). Teenagers are naturally anti-social animals, but that does not mean they don't need engaged adults in their lives (even if they would never, ever admit as much!). These kids don't really need you as their "friend," although you can be friendly with some of them. They need you as their teacher. One need only look at the Columbine ridiculousness and other recent school shootings to see examples of young people who rotate in their own little virtual worlds of irreality without any adult grounding whatsoever and then fall off the deep end with tragic results for themselves (and others). As a teacher you are doing God's work. And you are doing an "adult" job that is, in our too often adolescent society, especially important.
But teaching is like any other profession that requires years of work to acquire experience and skills. Approximately 50% of all teachers leave the profession with five years, and this has as much to do with discipline and a lack of respect towards teachers by students (and some parents) as it does paltry paychecks. I see so many 23-year olds just out of college who teach one or two years, and then they go back to graduate school at least partially because they find out how challenging teaching is and how much work it entails. I hope it goes differently with you. Outstanding teachers are not born but are made through decades of hard work. Think about those great teachers from CdMHS and set yourself to become one of their counterparts in the next generation. If you like teaching and want to pursue it, then commit to it. Think about where you want to be in three or thirteen years, plot the course, and see the journey through. Teaching can be a hard life with few external rewards and many frustrations, but hopefully it will be one without remorse or regret.
I am proud to say my sister has become a teacher. And I am very happy to welcome you to this profession -- one that is, despite everything, as noble today as it was when Socrates walked the streets of Athens and taught anyone who would listen to him. Rock stars and athletes get the fame and money in our society, but we teachers are the real heroes (at least those of us worthy of the title "teacher").