Michelle Jones (NYU ‘19) earned a B.A. in Global Liberal Studies with a concentration in politics, rights, and development. She double majored in Spanish and earned a minor in Global and Urban Education studies. Michelle is currently in her second year teaching at Success Academy Charter Schools.
Working in education was not always my goal — when I entered college, I thought I wanted to be a lawyer. Eventually I figured out that wasn’t the right career for me, but I still knew that I wanted to do something that would make an impact on many lives. I knew I loved working with people, but I couldn’t put my finger on what I could do. I finally realized that all of the people who had inspired me and motivated me throughout my life were educators in one way or another, and I had an epiphany — I was meant to work in education! It’s funny it took me so long to realize my ideal career, since both of my parents are teachers.
I knew that eventually I wanted to go into education policy and make a change in the way people approached education, but also believed in the importance of having experience in a classroom and working with students in a school. I decided to make teaching the first step in my career. Now that I’m in the classroom, I concentrate each day on building positive relationships with the amazing children that I get to teach — while also working to get better at teaching each day. In the process, I’ve discovered that there are a number of skills I am building that I think are going to be incredibly helpful in a future career outside of the classroom.
Patience & Problem-Solving
Some days I don’t get through all parts of my lesson because my students get stuck on one part and we have to slow down to make sure they catch on. My school sets very clear goals for growth for our students, so in the beginning I would get worried if we were behind. Over time, I realized that it’s always better to have the patience to slow down and really dig in with the students to illuminate the root of their misunderstandings — that way I could do my work more effectively the next time. I think in many different jobs, people can experience obstacles and other things that slow a project down, but having the patience to stay calm and work through it is key to not losing your mind and having a positive outcome!
Adaptability & Quick Thinking
I can’t count the number of times I’ve needed to add an impromptu activity or informal assessment in a class to make sure all my students understood a concept or worked through a problem. When an obstacle arises in the workplace, you need to be able to make changes, come up with a solution, or deal with it immediately at times. Being able to think quickly helps!
Project Management & Organization
I thought I was organized until I started teaching, then I realized I had a lot to learn. As a teacher I have to keep track of my main class lessons, intervention lessons, advisories, student progress and more. It’s basically like being a project manager. This job forced me to rethink my organization style and find tools that worked for me to keep track of and stay on top of everything. Pretty much every job requires a certain degree of project management, and the skills I’ve gained through teaching at SA give me a lot of confidence about my capacity to take on this kind of work.
Analytical & Strategic Thinking
As a teacher I need to be able to look at my students’ data — their work and their writing as well as their performance data — to not only grade them but also figure out what misconceptions they have and how to strategically address them in my next lesson. I need to be able to find patterns in my students’ work to decide what skill I should focus on for the improvement of the class and which students need independent coaching. Many careers involve taking information and being able to draw substantial conclusions that inform the next step.