Showing posts with label seniors. Show all posts
Showing posts with label seniors. Show all posts


Navigating New Beginnings: Reflections on Teaching and Personal Growth in Jackson Heights

Discover a teacher's reflections on personal growth and career transitions, inspired by deep connections with students in Jackson Heights.
"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step" — Lao Tzu
In May I took a photo of a batch of flowers grow in Jackson Heights, Queens
Jackson Heights in Queens is Aglow with May Flowers
On Leaving
Jason, whom we'll call by that name, arrived in the classroom accompanied by Corey, also a pseudonym. They exclaimed, "Mr. Roselli, are you leaving? You're my favorite teacher!" Indeed, there is a departure, but the term "leaving" should be viewed more as moving forward. The accuracy of being their favorite teacher might be debatable, yet what truly resonated in that moment was their genuine concern. Their warmth and optimistic demeanor were unexpectedly touching, especially since adolescent boys often oscillate between being reserved and taciturn or loud and brash. This encounter was a proud one, as it reflected a significant connection made.

Existential Moment
I find myself in a place in life that I haven't experienced in a long time. I'm just wrapping up eight years of teaching at my current school in the Jackson Heights neighborhood of Queens, where I've had the honor and pleasure of working with a host of wonderful, curious students. I've gotten to know and work with these students over the years. The current seniors I'm teaching this year have been my students since they were in fifth grade. I taught some of them a research class in sixth grade, an ethics class in middle school, and English in 10th grade. Some I also taught as their history and humanities teacher in 11th grade, and now they're seniors. 

I find myself at a precipice because I am leaving my current school to venture out into a different world. Just like the phoenix, I am ready to rise from the ashes in a new place. This transition has prompted me to reflect on who I am and where I am in life. I am very proud of the work I have done, not only in the past eight years at my current job but also over my entire 13-year career teaching secondary education, covering grades 5 through 12. Just last year, I finally received my professional teaching certification in New York State, which is now part of my official records.

From One Place to Another
I find it fascinating to consider what teaching truly involves. We plant our feet in a specific place, within a specific community. And Oh! The places we go. Whether it is the New Orleans where I grew up, or the many visits I have made to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I am a sojourner. I've had the privilege of traveling to China with students and teachers and visiting other students in Beijing, Suzhou, Shanghai, and Xi'an. This past February, I traveled with 51 students and 10 teachers to London and Paris. And what about the journey of writing, of reading? I sometimes say you really don't need to leave a place to visit the world. Open a book. Think about it. Since 2017, I have created over 270 unique educational resources, sourced from the public domain, the New York Public Library’s digital collections, and various humanities-based topics, ranging from Socrates to Angela Davis. I can't be done yet, no m'am!

Teaching Humanities, adolescents are exposed to different ideas. And that is an exciting space to carve out in a classroom. While I definitely have my own opinions, and beliefs, and I inhabit the world in a certain way, I wonder how distanced from myself I need to be as an educator to allow my students to begin thinking independently and not merely parroting my ideas (or someone else's). Today, someone asked me about the concern that teachers might indoctrinate their students, which made me think about how we barely have time for that in the classroom. I can be completely myself, yet also create a space for dissenting opinions, which I appreciate as long as we adhere to basic human integrity principles and aim to share rather than harm. I always start my humanities classes with this principle: We state our own opinions and ideas; we do not attack others’. For example, instead of saying, "Deborah thinks capital punishment is illegal, and she’s stupid for thinking so," we say, "I believe capital punishment should be legal in the United States." We take ownership of our ideas, and this is how I conduct discussions in my classroom. 

Reflecting on Mid-Life

Approaching middle age-I'll be 45 in December-I feel confident yet exhausted, and curious about what's next. Maybe that curiosity is what's pushing me to explore a new direction. If Dante, in his classic epic, can find himself guided to new places, where he is "mid-life in his journey," then so can I?

Right? Listen! 

I saw Jason and Corey again; this time, it was during lunch, where 1 sat with two very quiet, amazing teachers and about thirty loud teenagers. They had some stories to tell me-like, 'Remember that time you taught an entire lesson dressed up as Doctor Who?' or, 'When we were being rowdy, so you climbed on the table in your classroom to get our attention?' Yes, those anecdotes are most likely true. By nature, I am an ephemeral person; not much of what I do is permanent. Often feeling like a visitor in my own life, I am comforted when others can validate my experiences. For sure-my tombstone will not merely read

'Greig—he washed his dishes!'

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