Dispatch from a Second-class Educator

“I’m sorry, but you can’t call yourself a real teacher.”

“What do you do for your real job?”

“Isn’t all just tricks and memorization?”

“I’m sure you know all the best bars and hotels on [the local university main drag].”

These quotes are just examples of the variety of comments I receive when revealing my profession. Each came from either a parent of a student or a colleague in a graduate school of education. Read them over again and think about that. Let it sink in.

I have nine years of experience in teaching all manner of entrance exam preparation. Tests like the SAT, ACT, GRE, GMAT, and MCAT are continually derided. Often deservedly so.

I have taught in Seattle and its wealthier suburbs. I have taught in affluent enclaves and hopelessly rural areas in North Carolina. I have taught in places as disparate as Charlottesville, VA and Orange, SC. I’ve taught at HBCUs and programs like AVID; pre-meds at Duke and veterans from NC State. I couldn’t reach each and every student, no teacher can, but I have evidence to show I significantly helped the majority of them.

But my nine year commitment to gaining profound knowledge in and around such exams, the troubles a broad swath of students encounter with understanding the tests, the effects of and ways to mitigate test anxiety, of how to coach young people who are unaccustomed to less-than-stellar achievement, and of ways to reach students who feel the deck is stacked against them. Knowledge such as mine is hard-fought through countless hours of preparation, study, and practice both for and of teaching experiences.

Am I ashamed of my work? No. Do I despise the industry and its reason for being? Yes. Am I uncomfortable with how much the company charges for my services? Beyond measure. Would any parent with the means pay that charge without reservation? Absolutely. Do I have deep, irreconcilable internal conflicts with all of the above (see what I did there…)? More than you could ever know.

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