Blog Post: I am staying at KIPP for a third year, not just with high hopes, but with certainty

Brendan Caldwell began his Teach for America commitment with KIPP Memphis Academy Middle as a 6th grade science teacher in 2017, and has chosen to stay beyond his two-year program.

Brendan Caldwell began his Teach for America commitment with KIPP Memphis Academy Middle as a 6th grade science teacher in 2017, and has chosen to stay beyond his two-year program.

 

In the summer of 2017, I moved to Memphis to begin a career in education. I had little sense of what teaching would really entail, but my hopes were high. What I found at KIPP Memphis Academy Middle was an opportunity for those hopes to take root - and so much more. KMAM is a place of hardworking educators and energized students where I can share my excitement for science in a community of lifelong learners.

After my first year, I experienced a dramatic shift in science standards. Many of the same scientific topics that had been taught for years were now reimagined with a more rigorous, analytical, and conceptual framing. Fundamental concepts, once treated simply, could no longer be memorized; they had to be dissected, reimagined, and reformed - not by teachers, but by the students encountering them.

I knew what made science energizing for me: animated videos about the multiverse, articles about the latest advances in gene therapy, and updates about the next supermoon fill my notifications. The challenge was to transfer that intellectual curiosity to my students. Science is a world of endless possibilities and my mission as an educator is to invite my students into that world for life, to see themselves as scientists not just as a career opportunity, but as a mindset they can take into any endeavour.

As an educator, it’s so exciting to watch as students move beyond academic skills, embodying historical pillars of scientific thinking by taking risks, experimenting, synthesizing ideas, and developing new ways to think about the universe - known and unknown. There is a spark that is lit when a student doesn’t just write about planets, but imagines one that has never existed, and has the scientific vocabulary to imagine with precision.

At KMAM, my fellow educators are more than coworkers, they’re teammates. Within grade level teams and content teams, we have collaborated, negotiated, and worked tirelessly to meet the needs of our students in new and creative ways. As a team, we live into our commitment to disrupt historical and present inequities in public education. I have learned to hold the present reality in tension with the highest hopes for our student. Loving and teaching middle schoolers is a tough job, but frustration can turn to fun with a supportive team of like-minded educators. I am so grateful for the ways I have grown and changed, with an increase in empathy, patience, and passion, all through the support of the KMAM team.

I am staying at KMAM for a third year, with not just high hopes, but with certainty. I have certainty that my students will grow, improve, and deepen in their maturity, brilliance, empathy, and confidence. I have certainty that my team will challenge and support me through the ever changing obstacles of public education. I have certainty that all of my efforts are worth it- as our community is changed for the better.

 

 
Molly Wallace