November 21, 2016

Teachers Talk Back: Joshua Sensabaugh

Joshua Sensabaugh is a first-year teacher at Dodson Middle School, a magnet school in the Los Angeles Unified School District. He is a Los Angeles native and recently completed his credentialing program at the University of Southern California. He teaches seventh-grade English and has a strong passion for reading and writing. In this conversation with E4E-Los Angeles Outreach Director Matthew Raymond, Joshua discusses teacher preparation programs and finding success in his first year.

Matthew Raymond (MR): What drew you into the teaching profession?

Joshua Sensabaugh (JS): It started with my Japanese teacher when I was in high school South Los Angeles. Ms. Sakahara was the first teacher who took notice of my abilities and pushed me to do my best. I took that experience with me to college and continued learning Japanese. After I graduated college, I moved to Japan to teach as a Yokkaichi English Fellow, but I found out how little I actually understood the language. During those three years abroad, I tested myself to see whether or not I wanted to become a teacher in the United States. My first year was a struggle, but I had veteran teachers supporting me every step of the way. In my last year, one of my students asked me, “How can I learn how to read?” I had no formal teacher training, so I could only give him advice that I felt was inadequate and did not help him. That feeling of being unable to properly help this boy propelled me to learn as much as I could about teaching, so I returned home to enroll in a master’s program for my secondary English credential.

MR: What have been your greatest successes this year?

JS: I student taught at Dodson, where I work now. Continuing to work with my guiding master teacher from my credentialing program, Lovelyn Marquez-Prueher, the 2015 California Teacher of the Year, has been a huge help, because I am learning strong class management from her. My students have an understanding of expectations in my classroom, and we improve together each day. For a first year in the profession, I believe I am learning all the time and have many opportunities for growth. I feel confident in the ways I am building relationships with my students.

MR: What tips do you have to share with other beginning teachers?

JS: I've learned firsthand that teachers should always reflect on their instruction and be open to trying new things. This reflection creates solid growth over time. Create strong, consistent routines for yourself when you’re not teaching so you can balance planning time and other life activities. Lastly, network! Teachers don’t exist on an island in classrooms. I am constantly looking online to see what other teachers are going through and doing in their classroom to gain wisdom. I like hearing from other teachers about what they are doing to try to improve and use those insights to develop myself.

MR: How prepared did you feel after your teacher preparation program?

JS: My cohort members and I have actually spoken about this at length. To be honest, I do think my program prepared me for a majority of what I am encountering right now, especially with regard to the theoretical side of teaching. Lesson planning, creating supports for students and how to reflect were all stressed in the program, and I use those skills every day. However, many of the administrative tasks of teaching were not covered adequately in the credentialing program. I am learning these skills every day at school and learn from the veteran teachers in my building.

MR: What upcoming projects excite you the most?

JS: In my next unit, my students will do a literary text analysis and turn it into a Prezi or infographic project. My students are always asking for more hands-on and technology-based activities, and I really think this will help break down the content in an understandable and exciting way. Our unit follows Writer’s Workshop; students will have to conduct an author’s study using short stories - James Baldwin, Shirley Jackson, all authors students can appreciate. Rather than write a companion book as stated in the unit, I want them to do something more useful for their generation by using technology. Digital material is so easily shared, and they can show it to their family and friends. I am also working on helping my students build relationships with each other, and this will be a collaborative project to help that.

MR: What are you hoping to get out of being an E4E member?

JS: One thing that drew me to E4E is that it the focus on policy. I am not too familiar with many education policies but I have certainly been affected by them. I am a product of LAUSD and I am now a contributor to LAUSD's culture. Coming from that background, policy is extremely important to me, especially as a person of color. I believe it is imperative that I increase my awareness and knowledge of current education policies affecting schools and teachers in Los Angeles, and I am excited to partner with E4E in order to accomplish that.