The Stories We Tell Ourselves

April 19, 2018

“My whole life I said to myself, ‘I will not teach,’” says Kaydi-Ann Newsome ’14, an economics major from Jamaica. “I remember my chemistry teacher in year nine saying to me, ‘You know, one day you’re going to be a teacher.’ I was just like, ‘No, sir. It’s not going to happen. It’s just not going to happen.’”

But as a second-year, Newsome took Comparative and International Education with Deborah Michaels, associate professor of education. “That's when I realized I've been thinking all wrong,” Newsome says. “I love education. I want to be a part of this whole movement and get into studying education a lot deeper.”

Connecting the Dots with Research

She dived deep into a summer Mentored Advanced Project (MAP) with Michaels. Newsome was especially interested in the Teach for All movement. Teach for All is the umbrella organization of Teach for America, a service organization that a number of Grinnellians work for after graduation.

At the time Newsome was doing her MAP, Teach for All was expanding across the world and had just started programs, or was looking to start programs, in several countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, including Jamaica. She had several research questions: What does it take to bring this organization, which is rooted in the United States, into less economically developed countries? How are they going to attract graduates from a less economically developed country? How are they going to fund this?

“That was the point where everything starts to come together,” Newsome says. Her economics background in social development, her global development studies concentration, “and then of course, this education as the tool that's supposed to lift you all out of this.”

Moving to London, Learning to be an Adult Quickly

Yet teaching was still not on her radar. Three weeks after she graduated from Grinnell, Newsome moved to London where she knew she had the support of her extended family. Because her dad was born in Britain, Newsome has dual citizenship, so she was able to start looking for work right away.

She found a job tutoring in math and English for a private company. On her first day she recalls thinking, “Man, this feels so natural. Like, wow.” She’d spent lots of time in K-12 schools in Grinnell because of her education classes, but she’d never actually taught a lesson.

A colleague at her new workplace suggested she apply for Teach First, the U.K.’s sister organization to Teach For America, adding, “You're the kind of person they’re looking for.” Newsome did “loads and loads of research” on the organization, which only accepts applications once a year.

She landed the job, and in June 2015 she started six weeks of summer training with the organization. “It was just intense,” she says. She learned about the pedagogy of teaching math and how to manage herself and students.

Stepping into a Career she hadn’t Anticipated

In September 2015 Newsome started work teaching 11- to 16-year-olds at Trinity Secondary School in Lewisham, South East London.

During her first year of teaching, she was, herself, considered a full-time student. “Every six weeks, I was either writing a research paper or writing a paper based on a class that I had taught,” Newsome says. “I had 17 formal lesson observations [that] I had to prepare extra documentation for.”

In addition, she was doing all the things a teacher regularly does. As Newsome points out, “Assessments don't mark themselves. Lessons don't plan themselves. Assignments don't write themselves. Things like following up with parents at the end of the day, that definitely doesn't do itself either.”

Grinnell prepared her well for that intensity, Newsome says. “We went through the fire, went through the ice, and I learned how to come out stronger. I'm a resilient Grinnellian.”

Newsome has changed her story about teaching.

“The best part about teaching is definitely seeing the kids grow, not just in their mathematical knowledge. They're growing physically. They're growing emotionally. They go through lots of different drama. They tell you things. They make you laugh.” She pauses and looks across her bright classroom. “I will want to teach for a very long time.”

 

Taking advantage of a career community

Newsome joined the first cohort of “Ed Pros,” Grinnell’s Careers in Education Professions program that kicked off in 2013–14. “I saw it as a brilliant opportunity for skeptics like myself, who knew I wanted to do work in the field of education, was wary about being in the classroom, but needed guidance on mapping out career options,” Newsome says.

Through Ed Pros, she gained access to alumni who were working in education and who inspired her to think outside of the box with regards to life after Grinnell. She also attended conferences, including one in Chicago on urban education.

“In retrospect, [the conference] helped to prepare me psychologically for working in London schools,” Newsome says. “Essentially, it was these opportunities that helped me to soften up to the idea of becoming a classroom practitioner and still consider myself even more prepared to work actively outside of the classroom to effect the change I want to see.”