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Jennifer Kang Student Teaching - Autobiography The last twenty-three years of my life seems to have strangely but purposely

unfolded to where it is now- a point of delving into an exciting endeavor of student teaching. Coming to such a state of reflection reminds me of how I came to fall in love with education, and why I decided to pursue teaching as a profession. Education has and always will be my life passion and goal. My teaching pedagogy is shaped around the idea that ALL students are capable and deserving of equal opportunities in education. TCs Elementary Inclusive Preservice Program is embedded in the principles of inclusive education and education for social justice, to prepare teachers to be teachers of ALL children and youth in schools. This philosophy best aligns with my own. My sensitivity to diversity has developed in light of my own experiences as a student in Korean, Sri Lankan, and U.S. classrooms. Learning with peers who have different background, culture, and religion than I do, I have grown to deeply understand and embrace multiculturalism. Moreover, I believe to teach is to serve. My ardor to serve children through education has evolved through the injustice I personally faced in the U.S. educational system. All of these experiences together have formed who I am today, shaping, in particular, my identity as an educator. My story begins in South Korea, takes a small but important detour through the country of Sri Lanka, and continues on to the United States. I was born and raised in Korea until I was seven years old. I attended a private kindergarten in Korea. My learning there revolved around the arts and interactive play. There was a huge transition from kindergarten to the elementary school. My first grade experiences occurred in both private and public institutions that promoted a traditional, didactic learning approach. The classroom imposed rules that were to be strictly followed; if the rules were violated by any one of the students, the entire class would get their hands hit with a stick or ruler. Then, hitting as classroom discipline was still allowed in South Korea but I am aware that it is no longer legal today. The underlying motive to such classroom

Jennifer Kang Student Teaching - Autobiography etiquette in Korea was to teach the essence of collectivism, so that children learn to function not as individuals, but as part of a bigger society. Due to my fathers business, I moved to Sri Lanka in the second grade, and lived there for about a year. During the time, I attended a small international school in a local town called Yakala. It was there that I was first introduced to English. To this day, Im still unsure exactly how I communicated with my Sri Lankan friends. English was not the first language for most of us. We were native speakers of other languages such as Sinhala, French, and Korean. Its my assumption that we all used a mixture of broken English and body language. The classroom diversity was also striking. The daily lunch we brought from home represented different regions all over the world. We celebrated one anothers main holidays and were curious to learn about other cultures. Despite our great differences, I remember being very happy in such unique community. There was no pressure to assimilate, as individual diversity was respected and valued. We were united by the common ground of childhood, simply desiring to play and learn together. After spending a year in Sri Lanka, my family and I immigrated to the U.S. when I was eight years old. We came to pursue the American Dream. We were among those hopeful bunch who believed the United States to be a land of equal opportunities and educational success. However, my experiences in U.S. schools as a Korean-American immigrant have revealed to me that the American Dream of equal opportunity is, as of today, a distant and unreached dream. It promises young Americans that individual hard work and effort can open the door to educational success. It conveys the message that children should have roughly equal educational opportunity. The truth is, they do not. My experiences participating in and studying the U.S. education has taught me that schools are complex institutions that function selectively, giving benefits to some people while marginalizing others. I learned that it wasnt my hard work but my being- the color

Jennifer Kang Student Teaching - Autobiography of my skin, the language I spoke, my gender, and my ability- which was the best predictor of the kind of education I would receive and thus, likely the future I would have. As a minority, I have been the subject of oppression from U.S. schools because of my race, ethnicity, gender, and language. English-only instructions imposed in my classrooms forced me to assimilate and throw away my native language so Id become a mainstream student. When I first attended U.S. school in the third grade, every day in school seemed like, blatantly put, torture. I was forced to think, read, and write in English without the proper guidance, care, and patience from my teacher. A transition from Korean, or any language for that matter, to English requires time, but I was harshly rushed into mastering English as if my Korean language was some kind of taboo and my poor English skills, a deficiency. My teacher certainly treated it that way. Shed often call on me and ask me questions in English which I could not comprehend. If I didnt reply to her questions and told her I didnt understand, shed start yelling at me. On the other hand, if I took a chance and replied by guessing Yes, No, or Okay, it would pave a way to more miscommunication. She may have thought she was helping me with practice to build my English skills, but to me, this experience was the epitome of oppression. Classrooms became a stressful environment because I felt frustrated, being unable to speak out for myself. This was also the case for my parents. Because of language barrier, they were often silenced by school professionals and teachers. Many times, teachers were not understanding of my parents limited availability to support my education, due to their long hours of work and lack of English skills. My parents felt neglected in PTA meetings, having to sit through hours of meetings, not being able to participate in conversations. No one cared if they understood or not. It is now that I realize that my family and I had been experiencing unjust discrimination from schools because of its sorting function and cultural practices.

Jennifer Kang Student Teaching - Autobiography The curriculum offered in my elementary and secondary education excluded me further. From being forced to engage in activities that had to do with American topics (e.g. football, holidays such as Halloween) that I had never been adequately introduced to and were not part of my culture, to reading history textbooks that glorified wealthy White males, I couldnt help but feel alienated. The curriculum I received in my schooling de-emphasized racial, ethnic, gender, and class distinctions, and fell short with a lack of relevancy. As an Asian-American female, I became invisible in the stories I read. Moreover, it failed to teach me how I could connect to what I was learning and apply it in my own present and future. Through this sort of limited, homogeneous, and close-minded curriculum, I felt lost with no sense of belonging. If my story had ended there, it would have been miserable. I am one who believes that if we ignore shortcomings and faults, there would be no growth and progress. Indeed, the U.S. education system is imperfect. And yes, the American Dream seems more like a distant dream. But I do believe there is hope for U.S. education, and that hope begins with the current and future people of influence in the field of education. It calls for continued addressing and investigation of education inequity. As a result of having been marginalized, I will not turn my face away in indifference but instead, towards the problems. If anything, my background has cultivated within me a hunger for reform, and the desire to help effect changes in U.S. education. This is the exact reason why during the last couple of years, I have dedicated myself into the studies of education as a student and aspiring educator. Taking courses on education at the undergraduate and graduate level, I delved into this field with a refined perspective and readiness to learn. I investigated multiple views on education inequity, with the hope of maintaining a broad scope. Studying and analyzing various theories challenged me to develop my own disposition of what the purpose of education should be.

Jennifer Kang Student Teaching - Autobiography Moreover, I have explored education not only theoretically, but in practice. I served as a teachers assistant in urban elementary settings in NJ and in Harlem, NY. Ive also had the opportunity to teach internationally, in Hocaba, Mexico for five consecutive summers as part of missions work. There, I helped to bring awareness of the importance of education to the impoverished area that lacked resources for their children. Furthermore, I also had the privilege to work with children with special needs at an organization called Milal Missions Center. These field experiences allowed me to have meaningful contact with the underprivileged, often oppressed children and their families. It stretched my understanding even further of the ways schools ostracize children and families in poverty, as well as children with disabilities. I am grateful for all the personal as well as field experiences that have shaped me since a young age. I believe myself to be an introvert most of the time. But when it comes to education reform, I become unusually bold and outspoken. Studying and learning about it makes me laugh and cry, and it moves me to be on top of my toes. That is why I deem it my passion. Upon graduating from Teachers College, I aspire to strive down the road to educational hope, as a teacher who will explore the issues at a micro-level through intimate interactions with children and their families. I will not only recognize inequity issues in schools but put my knowledge of it to action, administering classroom practices that will give all children the access to learn. I hope to teach as a means to carry out social justice, and become a leader who will be dedicated to bringing about transformation in the education world. My passion for teaching as profession has come a long way, but there is much farther to go. Yet, despite the distance, my heart races at the thought of taking my first real strides onto this path that lays before me. This leaves me to a joyous disbelief and excitement for whats ahead!