Alumna Profile - Teaching
amy binkowski, lsoe 1997
By 9:30 in the evening, Amy Binkowski (BC, '97) has already spent nearly fourteen hours with the teenage girls she teaches and mentors. "Sometimes I feel like a full-time parent. In fact, I spend more time with these girls than their parents do."
From 8:00 until 3:00 each weekday, Amy teaches 6th grade language arts and 7th grade English classes at Mother Caroline Academy, a Catholic middle school for girls from economically disadvantaged families. In the afternoon, she coaches the Double Dutch team and advises the Student Council. Following dinner, she and her fellow teachers run a structured study hall and provide individualized assistance until 9:00, when they load up the school vans and drive the girls home. At the end of her long day, Amy returns to Mother Caroline, where she and eight colleagues live on the top floor of the newly renovated Academy building in the Roxbury section of Boston.
For these extraordinary efforts, Amy receives no salary other than a small monthly stipend. So, why did she choose to work at Mother Caroline when she could have taught in the public schools, drawn a reasonable salary and had a considerably shorter work week?
In fact, during her senior year at BC, Amy initially threw herself into the process of applying for public school teaching jobs. As she examined her goals and her values more deeply, though, she realized she had to make some decisions. As a student, she had often served the larger community as a volunteer, participating in Urban Immersion and other programs sponsored by the University Chaplaincy and volunteering her time at Edison Middle School in Brighton. She had taken to heart the Jesuit ideal of "being a person for others." Now she wanted to take that ideal out into the world, to create a union of her professional life and her spiritual value system.
Amy was committed to working in an urban school setting. But through her student teaching, she was learning that large urban school districts were unlikely to provide what she most wanted - "a community of teachers supporting each other," a group of professionals who are "of one voice" about the mission of their school.
The turning point came one day in March of 1997, during her final semester at BC, when Amy paid a visit to Paula Norbert in the BC Chaplains Office. After Paula informed Amy about a variety of volunteer organizations that might suit her needs and her values, she pulled out a sheet of paper. This just arrived today by fax, she said, handing Amy a flyer from Mother Caroline Academy. Within a month, Amy had made a commitment to spend the following academic year working and living at the school community, where she is currently completing her second full year of teaching.
The rewards she receives for her work at Mother Caroline more than make up for the lack of money. On a daily basis, she provides instruction, guidance and individualized attention to some of the 60 young girls who attend the Academy, many of whom would otherwise be lost in the public school system or become casualties of their own gritty, low-income neighborhoods. She sows the seeds of knowledge and friendship in small-group settings, and then watches as her young charges blossom intellectually and personally. And she works and lives with a cadre of dedicated teachers supporting each other, young professionals who share, as Amy puts it, "the challenges and blessings of community living."
FINDING "THE FIT"
By taking the difficult step of examining her values and holding out for rewards beyond a simple paycheck, Amy found work that brought her great inner satisfaction. Does her story mean that every graduating student should chuck the paycheck and work in the inner city fifteen hours a day? Of course not. But sometimes the next thing to do in your life is to start defining what really matters to you, and to realize that at least some of your job satisfaction will come from doing work that you believe in.
WHO CAN HELP?
You don't need to struggle through this process alone. The counselors at the Career Center can assist you during individual appointments, as can the University Chaplains. In addition, you may wish to explore some of the resources at the Career Resource Library, books with titles like How to Find Your Mission In Life; Doing Work You Love; and The Job Hunter's Spiritual Companion. And if you're still at BC next year, look for the Chaplaincy's Discernment Series workshops for seniors, which received rave reviews from this past year's participants, many of whom will be moving on to full-time volunteer positions after graduation.
For volunteer opportunities, check out these links on the Career Center Web site: