Why Teaching? Why Blueprint? Why Me? Why You?June 13, 2022 | By Anneke Cronander
If you don’t need teaching as part of your life, if you don’t really love it, don’t be a teacher.
But how do you know without trying it? How do you try it? How do you figure out what to do while you’re trying it out?
I was asked to write a blog post about my time in Blueprint, how it affected me, and where I’m at now. As a 38-year-old, finally getting my teaching credential, I took a tangled path to get here, but I’m going to try to unravel it a bit. I graduated from Seattle University with two bachelor’s degrees (BA Psychology, BA English- Creative Writing) in 2006. Directly out of undergrad, I started teaching at a private school in San Francisco. I taught all kinds of things for grade levels kindergarten through eighth: stagecraft, grammar, writing… but I was especially fond of my middle school math classes. Something about making math make sense for students that were struggling had kept it a passion of mine since my sophomore year of high school. I even initially started college to study math, to be a math teacher. I felt like I’d come full circle.
But I was 23 in my first year of teaching and 24 in my second. I was teaching from 8:30 am-5:30 pm, tutoring after school three days a week, and working as a bouncer in a nightclub on weekends so I could live in San Francisco. At the end of two years, I had no wick left to burn at both ends. I needed time and perspective and, most importantly, to figure out if teaching was something I needed in my life. My students deserved a teacher who was sure of that.
This is where I’ll fast forward a bit more quickly… I took a year off (Starting summer 2008) to write and ended up tutoring math for two fourth graders and an unconventionally aged college student. After that, I spent a year subbing at a high school, wondering if that was my path. In late 2009 I found out I was expecting my first child and I set aside other pursuits. When my second child was a toddler, I read about a new tutoring program at my local church and joined their first year and continued working with them until my third child was 18 months old. I loved teaching again, but life has a way of getting in the way. I found out I had cancer (Hodgkin’s Lymphoma) in February of 2018.
I know; crazy plot twist, right?
Now, I don’t recommend cancer as a path to enlightenment, but it worked for me. After completing treatment (I’m still in remission over 3 years out so no need to worry about me) I decided to unpause my career path and go back to school… for WRITING!
I started a Masters of Fine Arts program in 2019 for fiction writing. Halfway through that program, I really needed a job. I scoured job sites for anything that involved tutoring or teaching and that is where I found Blueprint Schools Network. I have always been a proponent of educational equity including providing affordable (sometimes this meant free) tutoring for a lot of people in my life. The mission of Blueprint seemed to align with mine. Blueprint afforded me the opportunity to get back into the classroom with support and training around what had changed in the interim.
I’ve learned a lot about teaching over my last two years with Blueprint. I’ve honed my craft and improved the types of questions I ask students as well as examine how I understand math and how learning algorithms over number-sense hurt my mathematical understanding. Why was I 38-years-old when I learned that 25% of 8 is the same as 8% of 25? It makes sense because multiplication is commutative and it doesn’t matter at what point in that problem you divide by 100… but I was taught to turn the percent into a decimal and multiply by the whole. We never knew why so we never learned there were other ways. Blueprint has helped me develop the tools to empower students to be active in the construction of their mathematical understanding.
At the end of my first year with Blueprint, I finished my MFA and was also so taken with teaching again that I applied for a credential program with recommendations from my Blueprint Site Supervisor and my core teacher. There were only a couple of weeks before the end of one program and the start of the next, so I dove into the credential program right after MFA graduation. Blueprint offered me a path back into my passion. At 37 years old with over 10 years out of the classroom, Blueprint gave me the opportunity to get back into doing what I love while serving the community.
You may be asking yourself, why? Why would anyone want to teach middle school? Why would someone with degrees in psychology and English want to teach math?
I cannot begin to explain why some of us are middle school teachers and others will teach any other age. I can only tell you that to me, middle school is when young humans are really starting to formulate their own opinions instead of parroting what they’ve been told. It is frustrating at times but mostly beautiful and I love being around to support young people at that time in their lives. Apart from that, middle school was very hard for me and if it hadn’t been for great teachers, I would’ve had a much harder time.
As far as my educational background, a little-known fact about me is that I started college as a math major with the intention of becoming a math teacher and completing multivariable calculus before changing my major. Math wasn’t easy for me; I worked for my understanding and my teachers worked with me. It’s important that kids get the support they need in the way they need it. I love to read and write, but as a teacher, I feel bound by the English curriculum, and math curriculum is very freeing to me.
I don’t keep my lack of math degree a secret; in fact, I use it to help demolish “the myth of the math person” in my classroom.
The best thing about working for Blueprint has been the scale of support offered to Math Fellows. Professional Development is actually useful and Fellows needing more support receive it in spades. Lesson Plans are provided and fellows are encouraged to make them their own. It’s a great program for anyone with a drive to serve and an idea that they may have the passion to serve through education.
I’m sad to leave Blueprint next year, but excited to have my own classroom and I hope to give a Math Fellow a home there.
Note on the Author: Blueprint Math Fellow alum Anneke is currently a math teacher in Oakland.