A few years back, I was in the same position many of you are
in now: less than a semester away from graduating, filled with great memories and not quite sure what to do next.
I majored in chemistry at Pomona and all the hours I spent
in lab led me to a concrete discovery: I didn’t want to be a scientist. I enjoyed
what I did, but I didn’t want to make a career out of it. I wanted a job that
included more interaction with people and would allow me to make a visible daily impact.
My mother was a teacher, so I knew that teaching met both of
those requirements. I had seen the impact she made on her students, and I knew
that she loved her job. I wanted a role that would challenge me, require me to
take on a lot of responsibility right away and push me to dive in wholeheartedly. So, after
graduation, I joined Teach For America.
That fall, I started teaching middle school science in the
Bay Area, where I had to work harder than I ever had before. Teaching is not
easy—anyone who tells you differently hasn’t done it. And while the sense of
fulfillment and purpose makes it all worthwhile, it is demanding. For me, one
of the biggest challenges was figuring out how to tailor my teaching to the
wide range of ability levels I had in my classroom. As I talked with other
corps members and fellow teachers at my schools, I realized I wasn’t alone. Many of us struggled with this exact critical and difficult task.
That led me to my next discovery. After a lot of
brainstorming and collaboration, I teamed up with a friend from Pomona during the spring break of my second year of teaching to launch eduCanon—an online
learning environment intended to create and share interactive video lessons. eduCanon
allows teachers to integrate video content into systems they already use, engaging students through embedded questions rather
than learning it passively. Most importantly, it allows teachers to set up
their lessons so that students can proceed at their own pace and process the
lesson in the way that works best for them.
Once I started using eduCanon with my students, our work
changed dramatically. I finally felt like I was able to give them each the
attention they deserved. One of my kids said he felt like he had a stronger
connection with me after we started using it. And when I visited
classrooms of other teachers who used it, I saw a similar trend. I could see
how engaged their students were and how the individualized lessons were
empowering them. eduCanon is used by 50,000 teachers at all levels of
education and led by a team made up of both Pomona and TFA alumni.
I could never have predicted back in my final semester at Pomona that this is where I would be now. But, looking back, I wouldn’t have wanted
my experiences to play out any other way. I was able not only to find work that was challenging and gratifying, but also to identify a real need while working with some of the
most talented, intelligent people I’ve ever met to help address these issues.
This is what our education system needs. It needs an influx
of ideas, energy and excellence. It needs people to stay in the classroom, to dedicate their lives to helping students reach their full potential. And
it needs others to take the challenges they saw their kids face in the
classroom and then find ways to make them better. I’ve watched my colleagues from
the 2010 corps follow both paths. I’m proud of their impact.
So if you’re not sure what to do in a few months, consider
teaching. It will challenge you, demand that you give your all, push you to test
your limits and pull you out of your comfort zone. Once you’re there, you’ll
find that you are among a network of strong, ambitious, intelligent people who
are committed to expanding opportunities for all kids and working tirelessly to
make that happen. You will meet students whom you will love, inspire and adore and
who will teach you just as much as you teach them. After you leave Claremont, it’s
the best company you can keep.
Ben Levy is a 2010 alum
of Pomona College and Teach For America. He is the CEO and co-founder of
eduCanon and was just named to Forbes’s list of 30 Under 30 in Education. Feel
free to reach him at @educanon123 or firstname.lastname@example.org.