Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Personal Statement, Version 2.1

I showed the first draft of my personal statement in an earlier post. After deciding that I didn't like the abstract direction it had taken, I opted to start over with a personal vignette from my teaching career to set up my viewpoint on freedom of access to information. As I hope to focus on intellectual property law, the statement needed to tie the most salient point of my resume--Teach For America--into a manifesto on Internet distribution. Right.

With my screenwriting background, I've always been more comfortable trying to describe complex situations through stories. I wanted to emphasize the human element of intellectual property by making an analogy with my students. Obviously, this first draft has lots of problems which I'll talk about more as I post later versions of the personal statement.

Georg is roaming around the classroom, the only student out of his seat. Although my structured worksheets normally overcome his attention deficit disorder, today nothing was keeping him in the present. I hand out honey wheat pretzels to the students diligently finishing their mastery checks. George  isn’t interested. I tail him around the room, reminding him of how well he is doing in math and that now isn’t the time to stop learning. The class paraprofessional tries some tough verbal love; George sucks his teeth. By now it’s become a scene, where both sides have too much at stake to back down.
George spins away from me, and struts toward the front of the room. His one good eye travels from the windows facing the cloudy sky across to the hanging posters of student work I had blown up to larger-than-life size. The order of operations process chart flutters in the breeze, standing out from the others. A few weeks ago, I had taught George to use color-coding and break down the problems into manageable steps—parenthesis were purple, exponents were emerald, etc. George’s handout was a functional, cleanly executed work of art.
George knows the answer, but asks anyway: “Is that mine?”
I nod, and something clicks. The celebration of his learning process, the display of his effort, his participation in a culture that valued those things, convince him that in that moment, that my/our/his math class is worth the time. I am reminded of why I chose to join Teach For America: to address the inequity of access to quality education.
For most of my career in education, I never explicitly connected that desire with my long-term career goals. Creating and managing international media distribution channels seemed almost completely disconnected from my two-year stint in the Northeast Bronx; a commitment I made because of a firm belief in the importance of education and an inalienable right to learn.
I. Right to knowledge
a. Create and share
b. Access and adapt
i. Contribution as highest form of owning
ii. We’re being disenfranchised from our own culture, even as tools of creation are becoming ever more powerful
iii. Technology is capable of storing and searching more culture than ever before
II. Increasing access globally
a. Allowing culture change through common ownership
III. Business informed by law
a. Changes won’t happen without regulation and oversight