Interview with MAP Teacher Eric Chow
June 7th 2012
ET: What subjects do you teach and where?
EC: I teach at Phillip & Sala Burton Academic High School in San Francisco. My background is English, but I am currently teaching English Language Development, Video Production and Broadcasting.
ET: You’ve been a teacher for over 15 years. Why did you decide to become a teacher? What do you love about teaching?
EC: Yes, 15 years is a long time! But it has gone by so quickly. I remember the most inspiring adults in my childhood and teen years were teachers. In their own ways, they really made an impression on me that they really believed in my abilities, took me seriously and gave me opportunities to challenge myself.
Although I started out teaching English as a way to get young people to express themselves (such as through poetry or art) I've been humbled by years of working in the SFUSD with children who need basic English skills, who do not read, who have no place or time to do homework, and so on. I realize now that it's about teaching the foundations for success day in day out. But, I still covet those opportunities when students bring themselves, their life experiences and hopes into the classroom.
ET: What is like teaching in a city like San Francisco?
EC: I was born in San Francisco and have lived here all my life. I can say it's a special place to work especially with the diversity of our public school system. Our students may not realize how valuable it is to learn and grow with people of so many backgrounds, but they will be better prepared socially. It's also unique that we live in a geographically small but vibrant metropolitan city. You can just walk a few blocks in any direction and find yourself in a distinctly different neighborhood with its own vibe and no lack of coffee shops, boutiques and hangouts.
But on the darker side, many of our students come from families that do not live that lifestyle. Working families struggle with high rent and expenses. Many of our children come from single parent families or are raised by a grandparent or live with relatives. So while our students see the flashy side of City life, many of them deal with day to day struggles that get in the way of just concentrating on education.
ET: You’re also one our longest running Media & Arts Program educators. How did you learn about World Savvy?
Years ago, one of our school's previous assistant principals brought World Savvy on board to help with some initiatives around global awareness and community service. Since that time, we've had new APs and World Savvy is no longer in the same relationship with our school. But I have always looked forward to the Media & Arts Program because it complements the curriculum I use with my English Language Development classes, providing a framework for exploring social justice issues through art and literacy. Plus, the year-end celebration is an opportunity for my students to celebrate their achievements.
ET: What is your favorite thing about the MAP?
EC: I really enjoy the MAP PDs! It's like going to school again, but with colleagues who really want to be there. Each time I've participated in them, I've learned to have an open mind and listen and come away not only with concrete lesson ideas, but I have a new perspective on my place in the classroom and the impact I can make on young people. World Savvy knows how to run PDs!
ET: One of the things I’ve noticed and admired in your classroom is how often you partner with other organizations and bring them into your classrooms. I’ve met folks from 826 Valencia and BAYCAT in your classrooms. What role do these partnerships play in your classrooms and in your teaching? At what point in your career did you start forming these kinds of relationships?
Working with groups and individuals such as 826 or BAYCAT or World Savvy are really valuable to my teaching. I like to think that their visions are the same as mine as a teacher and mentor to the students. I started out doing a lot of volunteer work before I became a teacher, tutoring immigrant kids in Chinatown, being one of the first WritersCorps members in San Francisco, and other creative arts endeavors so I know that people outside of the school system who like to work with youth have the passion to make a difference in young peoples' lives. And I also realize that budget cuts continue to whittle away arts education.
ET: How has your work with World Savvy influenced your teaching?
EC: First of all, the MAP Guides are incredible documents/resources. They are thoughtful, visionary and clearly authored by teachers. Through working with World Savvy, I have attempted to take on a broader range of media for my students to explore and create on their own. The MAP program connects teachers with artists and their work. One year when we were creating graphic novels about the students' immigration experiences, Katina connected our class with Betsy Streeter, a local cartoonist/writer. I'll never forget the two sessions she held for the class, and if you could see the works that they created that year, you would see the value of bringing in professional artists into the classroom!