My name is Scott Goodman. I was born in February of 1981 and grew up a pretty typical 1980s, middle-class, suburban life. I listened to Michael Jackson when he was still the “King of Pop” and grew up on television shows like Family Ties and The Cosby Show. My mother dressed my brother and I up in health-tex shorts and socks with multi colored stripes on them. I have about 37 posters and other assorted magazine clippings of Michael Jordan that used to hang on the wall of my bedroom. My family was the proud owner of a computer that has less memory than my cell phone does now. Like I said, it was a typical 1980s, New Jersey, suburban life.
I started school when I was two years old at a preschool at one of the synagogues in town. I attended school there for three years, but unfortunately can remember about three seconds of my time there. After that, I began elementary school at the local public school. Kindergarten was only half of a day and my mother chose the afternoon for me to attend. So, every day I would wake up in the morning and I would watch “The Price is Right”, with an auburn haired Bob Barker, and eat Kraft brand macaroni and cheese before heading off to school. As it turns out, math was my strong subject all throughout school, probably thanks to all the pricing games I watched on “The Price is Right”. That is what I really believe is important to get a good start in education. You must find things that are fun to a little child, but are also educational. Look at baseball cards. You can learn about geography from seeing where the players are from and what team they play for, mathematics from the statistics of the players, and even a little reading practice from the facts about the player that are written on the back. Things like this that I was exposed to at a young age were crucial to my development as a good student later in school.
My elementary school experience overall was very good. Out of all the teachers I had, the one that made a really lasting impression on me was my 5th grade teacher, Mr. Barnett. On one of the first days of class, he read us a story of a man and his son. They were planning on going fishing together, but every day the boy would misbehave. The father would look up at the sky and say that it was going to rain even though the boy could hardly see a cloud and they would always turn back. Soon, the boy realized that it was not the weather, but he, that was screwing up the fishing trip every time. The class pretty much forgot the story as the year went on. But every day that Mr. Barnett was going to take us outside and we misbehaved as a class, he would claim that the forecast called for rain. He let us realize for ourselves what mistakes we made without straightforwardly telling us. That is what made such a lasting impression on me. He could teach us so much without giving us the answers directly. He had a way making us use critical thinking that I need to try and incorporate into my future teaching style.
When I was thirteen, I got my first job. It was as a junior counselor at a local preschool camp. Throughout my four summers there, I began to realize that teaching is something that would interest me as a profession. When parents would come and tell me how much the kids would talk about me at home, I knew I was making an impression on them. Especially since I barely knew that half of them could even talk. Even though in adulthood these children will not remember me holding them or changing their diaper when they were two, the person that they become will have been shaped in a small way by me. With so many awful things that happen in this world, it is a good feeling to know that you are helping to shape good human beings.
I started high school at the age of fourteen. It was a fairly large high school known for pumping out the brightest kids ready for college. That image and what really existed were sometimes quite different, however. In other words, it was a typical high school. There may have been eleven national merit semi-finalists from my school, but there were still the same amount of girls that I knew that had gotten pregnant during their high school career. Overall, I believe that the education there was good, but I didn’t think that it prepared me adequately in certain ways. I think there was too little focus on writing skills. If the plan is to create students ready to learn at a university, these students must be able to write a decent essay. I was a cum laude student at my high school and I couldn’t write a good essay until I had lots of practice at college. If the top of the class couldn’t write so well, I can only imagine what the bottom of classes’ essays would look like. The teachers t my high school used too many multiple choice tests which, besides being easy to grade for the teachers, doesn’t promote either writing skills or critical thinking. By the end of high school, I may have been able to tell you when the Magna Carta was signed, but probably couldn’t have had much of a conversation on its significance, let alone write an essay on it.
It was college that then opened my eyes to what I had missed in high school. In high school, I hated history. It was just memorizing facts and then taking a multiple-choice test on those facts. It wasn’t until college that I realized that if history is discussed in the right way, it is the most interesting subject in school. I started Rutgers University as an engineering student. Teachers always told me that I excelled in math and science, so of course I should become an engineer. It took me very little time to realize that engineering would not make me happy for the rest of my life. It was then that I changed my major to economics with a history minor. I actually enjoyed most of my classes for the rest of college, but nearing the end, I still didn’t know what I wanted to do. It was then that I began thinking about teaching again. More specifically, I thought about what history classes in high school were lacking. If history was my least favorite class in high school, but my favorite class in college just a year later, something had to be wrong. I knew that I wanted to teach and I decided that I wanted to teach history and make it as interesting to my students as my college professors made it for me.
College also opened up my eyes to another key aspect of education—hard work. Throughout high school, I was one of the smartest students and could get good grades without exerting much effort. When I got to college, however, I began to notice that being smart isn’t worth a thing if you don’t work hard. I knew lots of people in college that didn’t have incredibly high IQs, but received mostly A’s, solely because they worked so hard. The same idea translates into the real world as well. It is great to be intelligent. However, if you don’t work hard for the rest of your life, you will never achieve the goals that you set for yourself. This idea needs to translate into the teaching profession. It is not OK to let the smart kids breeze through high school without being challenged. Everybody needs to learn to value hard work if they want to be successful in life.