My Favorite Side-dish? Cos-Law!March 20, 2023 | By Sarah Phung, Blueprint Math Fellow Alum (Bay Area)
It was February 2020. I was a few months away from graduating in a global pandemic (with a Bachelor's in Economics), and I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do. It wasn't as though the world was begging for economists during that time. I remember browsing through job listings, anxious about my future and how I was going to support myself at Berkeley. Luckily, I was working part-time at Jumpstart, another education program, and came across Blueprint.
To be quite frank, I was a little desperate for a job and concerned about my finances. But I realized the parameters were not far off from my usual life. I geared up to live like an extreme couponer/saver on TLC. It wasn’t going to be pretty, but I was willing to try and make it work.
I was assigned to be one of the Blueprint Fellows in the Bay Area. I was immediately amused as I’m pretty sure my school was the inspiration for Inside Out's school. When accepting the job, I assumed the pandemic would be over – nope! I realized that I’d be supporting students remotely. On one hand, I appreciated the ‘easy’ commute (shifting onto my couch from my bedroom), but I felt unsure as to whether or not I could make a positive impact on the students. My last couple of months at Berkeley had been remote, and unless the class is created with the intention of being online, instruction isn’t as effective.
Being a Math Fellow with the Blueprint was eye-opening. I genuinely believe that working with Blueprint helped set my path toward higher education and solidified my interest in teaching. The level of work given was manageable, and the support of my team members and Site Manager Dan made the experience more engaging. The staff at the school were accepting, and passionate about their careers. Best of all - the students. Don't get me wrong, there were multiple occasions where I was the only video turned on in a sea of black screens and muted mics. Some of the students were also upset by the additional math class (we can't all be math fans, I guess), and attendance was spotty at the beginning. However, it made the teaching and relationship-development process that much more satisfying. It's been over a year, but I still miss those kids!
One of my favorite memories with the kids (besides teaching them math, of course) was this one occurrence in which a student, who generally has their camera off, decided to turn on their video to show us a chicken they were holding. The other students went crazy, and the other Fellows were befuddled. It was strange and momentary, but it’s stuck with me throughout the years.
Although I knew I always had an interest in teaching and the education field, working with Blueprint gave me that final push into getting a teaching credential and Masters in Education. I'm currently a student-teacher at a High School (Algebra 2), and I use many of the techniques and skills I developed during my time in Blueprint. My supervisor has complimented me multiple times on my questioning abilities, and the methods I employ to keep my students accountable. For example, one issue I’ve run into often in my student teaching experience is students attempting to ‘opt out’ by claiming that they don’t know, or by remaining silent. Some techniques I’ve learned from Blueprint are: circling back, asking scaffolding questions, and providing wait time. I do this consistently in my classroom, and my students understand that they’re expected to follow through. Now they participate more!
At the end of the day - you might not be contemplating getting credentialed to teach or even going into education, but I can assure you that the Blueprint experience will be eye-opening nonetheless. I’m more confident in my teaching skills, and most of all, my ability to connect with my students and fellow educators.