Ezra Fishman responded to the prompt, “What surprised you most last summer?”
I surprised myself by being able to connect with my students outside the classroom. My first summer (Cambridge ’07), I struggled to connect with the students as people and to forge relationships with them. I felt I did a pretty good job teaching math and social studies, but I was not sure I really touched my students. So I expected that my second summer (Hong Kong ’08) I would struggle in the same way, especially because of the new language and cultural barriers between myself and the students. I ended up being better able to connect with my Hong Kong students. Perhaps a year of experience helped. Plus, the Hong Kong students were a bit older than my Cambridge students. Finally, Summerbridge Hong Kong has a great system where teachers and students write letters to each other. This really helped me get to know my students and helped them get to know me. I think my second summer my personal connections with the students might have been stronger than my in-class teaching. The relationships are so important, because a lot of Breakthrough is about providing role models for the students.