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Why I Teach and Where I Teach - To Ignite A Spark

Anjali Bhatt headshot

Every child has a spark in them that can be lit through a high-quality public education, but not every student has the resources and means to let them glow and grow. When I first decided to enter teaching, this was my guiding belief: that every student has the potential to thrive if given the opportunity. From the initial teaching application process to welcoming my third cohort of middle school students, this belief has stayed. Behind every decision my intent has been to be the classroom teacher that students need to ignite their spark and use it to their advantage. This is my “why” that keeps me energized in my teaching role.

Growing up in the Chicago suburbs, I had the privilege of knowing what public education could be. I had every resource — classes, organizations, and local partnerships — at my disposal to set me up for success with whichever career I chose. Without much exposure to other public school systems across the nation, I never fully realized how my education was affected by the affluence of my zip code, and that other students could only imagine my schooling experience as a far-fetched future.

When I learned about the realities of U.S. educational inequity, my passion led me to the classroom. I currently serve as an Asian American educator teaching seventh grade math at a Title I school in rural South Carolina, which is ranked as one of the worst-performing states academically. I chose to teach here because I knew if I wanted to get a better idea of the range of experiences that public school students have, I needed to immerse myself in a community so different from my own experience. I have learned that teaching is more than just being present in the classroom: it involves being present at my students’ extracurricular events and in the school community. What I have found here in rural South Carolina is what has kept me in the classroom beyond my two-year commitment. From the outside, all people see is a group of students jaded toward an education system that hurts them time and time again. But I know my students well, and they are every brand of genius. I have students with potential that could make them the future top lawyers, businesspeople, doctors, and engineers of the nation, but they rarely see themselves in these roles.

Many of my students do not have exposure to the wide variety of different careers and perspectives; some have never even left the county they grew up in. That’s why students do more than math in my classroom. They become historians who explore the context of the world problems we solve. They become financial analysts who evaluate the reasonability of the solutions we create. They become lawyers who investigate the credibility of the steps we construct. They develop the interest and skills that make them shine.

I will never forget my first year of teaching. I had a student who, if you asked him, would tell you he hated school. As I got to know him, I realized that his feelings stemmed from not feeling challenged or stimulated at school. Despite his initial opposition, I found that he would perk up when I connected the math lessons we did to data analytics and coding. Knowing this, I got him resources that would help him learn to code which helped him better understand how the math we learn connects to the real world and to something he loved, which then sparked a love for learning. Although this wasn’t a perfect story — his school bus route stopped running and he had to switch to virtual schooling — I continued to get updates from him regarding the coding languages he was learning next. Now that he has found his spark, I know he will continue to ignite his own path towards success.

To be an educator is to spark students’ interests and grow their potential, and every child’s success begins with a spark. Each students’ education is their own and I am reinvigorated simply by seeing my students discover their own. This is the reason why I teach where I teach, and why I believe every student deserves the opportunity to see their own education as a vessel for finding their unique spark.

Anjali Bhatt is a third year teacher in Hartsville, South Carolina. She entered the classroom with Teach For America in 2021. Now, she teaches seventh grade math at Butler Academy.


By: Redante Asuncion-Reed
Title: Why I Teach, Where I Teach: To Ignite a Spark
Sourced From: edtrust.org/the-equity-line/to-ignite-a-spark/
Published Date: Thu, 09 May 2024 10:00:35 +0000

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