Good Grades vs. Good People: Teaching in American Samoa
by: Shierly Mondianti
One of the most important skills that a successful teacher needs is the ability to navigate the classroom.
In a wonderful TedTalk by one of our Alums, Jessica Baker (American Samoa ’13) talks about the need for mutual respect between teachers and students. She speaks to how there is “more to life than an A+…than numbers,” and reflects on the need to take a step back from traditional methods of teaching and measuring educational success. As Jessica soon finds out, the process of learning does not have to be mechanical or straightforward. Sometimes, the student’s unconventional means of understanding is one of the most beautiful, powerful and fulfilling experiences.
We reached out to Jessica to find out more about her involvement with TedX Lansing and this was what she had to say:
“I came home from American Samoa in June of 2013. I knew that in 14 months I would be starting law school, so I was in that awful in between period that you’re warned about as you get ready to leave your host country. I knew what I wanted to do in the future, I just really wasn’t sure what I wanted for my present. I started substitute teaching because I missed working with kids, and I spent a significant amount of time in the city where I was about to go to law school. I ended up meeting a friend of a friend and started debating what it really meant to be an effective teacher and provide an effective education. I found out a few weeks later that the woman I met that night runs the TedTalk for Lansing and encouraged me to apply to give essentially the same speech I gave her that night. The rest is history.”
In this fast-paced and results-driven world, we sometimes compromise the development of our own human nature. Hence, a great take away from Jessica’s talk is of the need to value respect, kindness, and apathy, and also to “stop teaching for tests, teach for the kids.”
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