I was the youngest of three children born to my mother during one four year span in the 1980s. That was when my aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents all lived nearby. Family gatherings were crowded, loud, and hilarious. My grandmother's sense of humor infused those gatherings with a warm and charming wit that I still feel and seek to emulate to this day.
I depended on my sense of humor as I moved through both public and private schools, and was every type of student at one point or another. I had spells as the class clown, the straight-A student, the underachiever, the teacher's pet, the quiet one in the back of the class, the outspoken leader, the bully, and the victim. This diversity of experience has made me a more sensitive and deeply empathetic individual. There's no telling if I was destined to end up so. Yet somehow, all along, there has survived in me a persistent disposition that seems to push me to always become a better version of myself.
It is this push that drove my social and intellectual pursuits by the time I finished high school. Mining the wisdom of literature and philosophy became almost as important as forging deep and lasting friendships. My proudest achievement is knowing that there are five people in this world who consider me to be their best friend. I am even prouder of that than I am of being the first in my family to earn a bachelor's degree [in English and philosophy], as well as being the first to earn a master's degree.
Following the completion of my master's degree in elementary teaching, and as I was approaching the start of my first full-time teaching job in the states, I was asked what five traits I think a good teacher should possess. I thought of six. They are posted on my fridge: truth. love. humility. humor. curiosity. respect.
Come to think of it, these are traits that we should all seek to develop in ourselves and to promote in others. It is this notion that frames my interaction with people, especially children. The best ways to foster these traits in children are to offer these traits to them, and to have them see you interacting with truth, love, humility, humor, curiosity, and respect towards others.
As children grow, more and more we expect them to demonstrate these traits. They will slip up, and they will see us slip up–we're all on the same journey, after all–and we should all aim to hold each other accountable. Not through punishment or with harsh words, rather with acknowledgement, reflection, and collective efforts at correction. That is how selves and societies grow well.
It is a healthy mind that seeks to engage itself so that it may better engage the world, and it is a healthier world that results therefrom. Our individual psychological well-being is entangled with the well-being of the whole of us. It is this truth that inspires my love for engaging children in all modes of thought.
My primary goal when working with children has been to invite them to grow with me as well-adjusted, thoughtful members of society. As humans, we find ourselves in the curious circumstance of having naturally inquiring minds that are able to continuously reach for deeper understandings with regard to our experiences of ourselves and of the world around us. On the frontiers of these understandings, there are underlying uncertainties that can be both exciting and unsettling. As I work with families, I want to enrich environments where children feel safe to co-create communities of inquiry whereby we guide each other as we navigate through the uncertainties that will inevitably arise. Such support will prepare us to more confidently venture onto and beyond our frontiers of understanding.
These are my primary concerns as a human. I develop these purposes by pushing myself to practice them in all of my relationships, by reading and discussing literature, by composing poems and stories, by meandering through Manhattan’s museums and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, by mindful hikes and bike rides through the city, and by helping my elderly landlady with the the trash and the mail and the shoveling of snow.
These are the examples through which I seek to influence others, whether that be as a friend, a teacher, a mentor, a son and brother, a manny, an uncle—the list goes on as I go on.
And so on I go!
I hope to see you around!