Letter of Introduction from 2008:
Currently teaching at a large comprehensive urban high school in Massachusetts, I will complete my M.A.T. degree at Brown University this May. My work with peer-education and advising, my commitment to mentoring and tutoring during my undergraduate years at Oberlin College, my summer positions at Brown Summer High School and at the San Francisco Waldorf School, and my current teaching placement have provided practical experiences to further my development as a teacher and to shape my sense of purpose. My teaching philosophy is animated by consistent and rigorous high expectations of all students. I seek to establish a classroom built on strong relationships and that is student-centered: drawing on their unique strengths and background experiences, relating history to issues in their lives, and being transparent with them about my pedagogy.
Mentoring and tutoring have demonstrated the value of creating positive and empowering relationships with students. My three-year commitment to two African American young men from low-income families in Oberlin, Ohio taught me that mutual trust and respect are requisites for any lasting learning. I have continually sought to broaden my scope to find viable ways of connecting to the diverse students in my classrooms. I am relentlessly dedicated to my students. I regularly receive calls from students asking for help with homework and I frequently call home to ask for parents’ assistance in improving student performance and to inform them when their child does something particularly well. Working with parents has paid off: I recently had a student who is not in my class ask me if he could write the five page paper on antislavery I had assigned my students and request that I call his mother if he did well, as I had done for his best friend. Both he and his friend have a history of failing grades, skipping classes, and disciplinary issues. By establishing positive and productive relationships with students and parents I have been able to create a learning environment that fosters student achievement and to implement a content-rich curriculum.
I believe in teaching students in underserved communities more content, not less, and in focusing on essential skills, capacities, and habits of mind. As a History/Social Studies teacher, I also see myself as a literacy instructor who is committed to helping students become strong readers, writers, and speakers. I understand the value of differentiating my instruction to serve the diverse learners in my classroom, and employ multiple modes of presentation and collaborative activity in every lesson. I provide the necessary modeling and scaffolding and break difficult material into discrete and manageable steps using, for example, concept webs, graphic organizers, and outlines. I have students engage in weekly debate, teaching each other, awakening critical consciousness, and satisfying their hunger for argument. I have found this to be an effective way to engage students and to build essential skills of research, persuasive writing, logic, and public speaking. Students have become inspired by debate. Two students, for example, went above and beyond in demonstrating responsibility for their learning and for their teammates by changing their court dates in order to come to my class and debate. In fact, several students started a petition last week to start an urban debate team (and to get me to stay on next year as teacher and coach).
I have come to see that successful lessons require intensive planning, and that assessment drives instruction. Thus, I plan assiduously and always strive to align my learning objectives closely with my assessments by constantly asking myself core questions: “What do you want students to learn and how will they demonstrate that they have learned it?” and “Are you providing students with multiple forms of assessment that are easily observed and clearly measurable?” I plan units and lessons from essential questions and defined learning objectives. Organizing content coverage thematically, I combine the standards of the National Council for Social Studies with state scope and sequence curriculum guidelines.
I draw on my strong background in history and politics to enrich my lessons and augment textbook coverage. Recently I brought my thesis research to bear when teaching a unit on social reform and antislavery. I began with everyday forms of slave resistance, then taught slave uprisings and the work of Black abolitionists, and subsequently moved to William Lloyd Garrison and the American Anti-Slavery Society (where our textbook coverage begins). Many of my students expressed their appreciation for my teaching about “folks who look like them,” and have declared that they no longer find history boring. Having graduated with highest honors, I have resisted my professors’ urgings to enter a Ph.D. program in order to pursue what I sincerely consider to be my life’s calling: teaching young people. Inspired by youthful energy and idealism, I take seriously the transformative power of education. For me, teaching is about equity; it is about high expectations, taking responsibility for measurable results, and it is about self and community empowerment.
I am deeply committed to teaching in low-income neighborhoods in Los Angeles. Inspired by youthful energy and idealism, I take seriously the transformative power of education and openly avow social justice ideals. For me, teaching is about equity. It is about self and community empowerment and I do not shy from difficult questions of race, class, gender, and historical as well as modern forms of injustice.
Upon graduating, I will receive Rhode Island state certification in secondary History/Social Studies with reciprocity in California. While I will be fully qualified to begin teaching at the end of May, I have also applied for California certification and will transfer my licensure within the year.
Benjamin D. Weber