July 3, 2013

Teachers Talk Back: Anneliese Blommestein

Anneliese Blommestein teaches special education in Brooklyn.

What inspired you to become an educator?

I’ve always loved working with kids, and I really enjoyed being in the classroom when I was young. I was a babysitter for 10 years and in college, I participated in the Peer Health Exchange, where I taught health to 9th graders in schools that could not afford a health teacher. It was amazing to work with large groups of kids. I got to see what being in a classroom was like, and I loved it! I’d worked in offices before and I knew that was not the work environment for me. That was when I decided to apply for the New York City Teaching Fellows.

Has teaching met your expectations?

Teaching has been a rewarding but challenging career choice. I love working with my students. I teach special education at a District 75 site, so my students have unique needs that make every day a challenge. Each one of them is different and interesting, and I learn so much from them every day we spend together. When I get to focus on meeting my student’s needs and watching them grow, I think I have the best job in the world. However, I never anticipated how much time things like paperwork would consume during my day. As a professional, data is a critical aspect of my practice and is woven into my practice throughout the school year. Sometimes though, I feel burdened by redundant paperwork that I’m constantly required to report and submit. It doesn’t feel professional to have systems that require a ton of time and energy, but serve little or redundant purposes with respect to my student’s growth. It just reinforces how important it is for teachers to be involved at every level of decision-making in the education system.

Teaching in NYC is hard. What keeps you going?

I’m dedicated to the kids. I know that if teachers can come together, we can change the way people see educators. We are in the trenches, we know what works and what doesn’t in classrooms. Having the opportunity to have our voices heard and take more control of our profession motivates me. Working together with my colleagues keeps me going, as does working in the classroom with my students. I really feel like I was meant to be a teacher. Teaching is a huge challenge and it requires a lot of reflection. Before I became an educator, I cleaned houses professionally. In that role, you could immediately tell if you did a good job, it was easy to see if you were doing it right. Teaching is much more difficult. It’s hard to tell if you’re doing it right, and requires thoughtful reflection and a lot of humility. I love these challenges. I’m self critical, I love getting feedback and growing professionally. I love working with kids, all these qualities make me a great teacher!

Why is it important that teachers get involved in what's happening outside of their classrooms?

Teaching is a political job, especially in public school. What happens in Washington and Albany affects our classrooms. Teachers need to be aware of what is happening in the policy world in order to see the changes we want for all of our kids and ourselves implemented. So much education policy directly affects our work, so it is critically important to stay involved, be informed and be an active participant as we reinvent teaching for the 21st century.