By Emily Green, MA | March 30, 2017
Research Assistant, ETR
"I am a teacher. It's how I define myself. A good teacher isn't someone who gives the answers out to their kids, but is understanding of needs and challenges and gives tools to help other people succeed. That's the way I see myself, so whatever it is that I will do eventually after politics, it'll have to do a lot with teaching."
There is something about being a teacher that you carry with you, even if you transition to something else. I didn’t expect to become a K-12 science teacher, but I loved doing it. Now, I find myself being a teacher in everything I do. It gets into your blood. It changes the way you think. And I cannot thank my students enough for changing me in this way.
As a teacher you don’t get to choose who walks through your door, but you do get to help shape the way they walk out of it. The things you say may be carried on through them forever. Most of the time you don’t even know what your impact is.
I think this is also true for many participants in research. Just through the act of surveying or interviewing people, you inadvertently shift their thinking, perhaps shining light into places that had never been illuminated.
I had always wanted to do research, and when the opportunity arose at ETR I jumped at it. This meant I left behind doing teaching in order to research it! The transition has been nothing short of wonderful, and the ideas I bring to my new work are shaped, in large part, by the individual relationships I had with my former students. I believe this has helped me better understand my new position, in which I’m doing research on inclusion and equity in STEM education.
Understanding equity and inclusion also means understanding inequity and exclusion. As a teacher, I worked predominately with the alternative education community. My students loved science.
They also happened to be kids who couldn’t sit still, or had reading challenges, or were on the autism spectrum and missed social cues. Even students who were able at age seven to explain the difference between exothermic and endothermic reactions might be described within their traditional classroom as “distracted, disruptive and bored by science.” It became clear to me that standardized education had a long way to go to service all of the students in our educational systems.
Those students taught me how to bring the lessons back to them. Through this lens of their original disengagement, I can see how my new work at ETR might be received on their end.
Here are some ways I’ve been changed by my students that make me a better researcher on equity and inclusion in STEM:
Now, I see that challenges are making me potent as a researcher. The more I struggle, the faster I progress and the more I see. Setting manageable obstacles was once something that I taught. Now, I practice it!
I see this same process as I work on teams here at ETR. No two researchers see the same questions, processes or results. That is not a deficit, but an advantage.
As I move away from my role as a teacher and settle into my new life as a researcher, I bring experience in from both sides of the table. And while I may differ from Justin Trudeau in many ways, like him, I see that teaching will be one of the lenses I bring with me from now on. I also know that success is not a finish line, but simply the process that keeps us moving forward.
Emily Green, MA, is a Research Assistant at ETR working primarily on projects focusing on Equity and Inclusion in STEM. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.