Conversations From the Classroom: Monica Carvalho reflects on her journey to become a teacher

| February 20, 2012

“I’ve known I wanted to teach since I was five. It’s one of those types of stories.” From that point on, as Monica Carvalho moved through school, whatever grade she was in that year was the grade she wanted to teach. Once she hit high school, she knew she wanted to teach at the secondary level. “I knew at that point I needed to pick a specific subject area, so I went with English because that’s what I liked the most and what I felt the most confident in.”

Now in her last semester of the Teaching of English MA program at Teachers College, Carvalho is student teaching at the Beacon School, a public high school on Manhattan’s upper west side. Because of the school’s reputation for having a high quality academic program (to get in, students must go through a rigorous application process that includes an interview), Carvalho describes the students as being highly motivated. While behavior management is not an issue for her, Monica experiences other challenges in her student teaching placement.

“For me, it’s managing my time in terms of lesson planning, and also working up the courage to take full control of the class.” After a certain period of time, she’s no longer merely observing her cooperating teacher, but taking full control of two ninth grade classes. “I haven’t gotten there yet and I’m just a little nervous about doing that. So that’s probably the biggest challenge for me.” Fortunately, she cites her cooperating teacher’s excellent guidance as a source of support in her endeavor to grow as a teacher.

Despite some butterflies when it comes to taking over her CT’s classes, Carvalho is right at home when it comes to sharing her love of literature with her freshmen. “I get really excited about class discussions. It’s an English class so we give them a lot of time to discuss the literature they’re reading and I’m just blown away by some of the stuff they say.”

Her classes have been reading James McBride’s The Color of Water, a novel Carvalho feels her students can relate to. “They’re responding to it really well. It’s about identity, which is exactly what they’re dealing with right now.”

Upon graduating in December, Carvalho will be looking for a classroom of her own somewhere in the New York City area. In the long term, Monica sees herself teaching in a private school setting, perhaps in her native Rhode Island.

As a student teacher, Monica has many opportunities to reflect on her own experience as a high schooler, and make connections to the students in her charge today. “I remember how much I actually didn’t like discussions in high school because I was so shy. Then college drew me out a bit, so now just getting to sit back and watch them talk about stuff and figure things out on their own is really cool for me.”