Teaching, understanding teaching, and advocating for teaching has been very close to my heart from a very early age. While I haven't been a traditional public school teacher, and will probably never understand their lives in ways that people with that experience do, I am always trying to humbly improve my understanding of the professional and the factors that influence surviving and growing in it. Listening to my mother describe her daily struggles as a teacher, every single day growing up and up till today, helped easily empathize with the experience of teachers everywhere.
As an early teenager, when kids wanted to find excuses to go and party with friends, I envisioned teaching life and career skills. Funny, because I hadn't developed much of these skills myself.
Most of my teaching experience was about the web and web design, since I felt that I had a grasp on it in ways even grown ups in around me didn't. My first semi-formal opportunity to plan and pace curriculum, and teach with it, came in middle school. Over a summer, I decided to tutor two friends in web design, something that was very exciting to me in middle and high-school. I used to prepare thoughtfully-paced plans, and one kid walked from his nearby home, while the other's parents dropped him at my house for multi-hour lessons. I tried hard to make my assessments as "authentic" as possible. This was the real deal; I pretended hard that they weren't friends or peers, and we had a teacher-student relationship.
By early high school, I was seeing the gaps created by bad learning materials. After all, this was all students when the teacher wasn't around. In particular, our Arabic materials weren't that great, because the only resource students had was an ordinary textbook that a teacher inside the school had written. Arabic learning for non-Arabic-native speakers was a low-resource situation.
Around the same time, I was getting really into Hindi and Arabic typesetting, as publishing on the web was becoming interesting to me. So, I decided to make a thin booklet of self-learning notes on all the syllabus covered over that year, and share it with my schoolmates. Sharing learning materials online became my favorite hobby in high-school (which we called "senior school").
Then, towards the end of high-school, as my disillusionment with textbooks and support resources teachers were offering reached its peak, I decided to do something else.
This was the very very early days of MP3 players. In fact, nobody had one for most of my time until sometime in high-school. Then, in high-school, while discmen and CD burning were all the rage, we had begun to hear about these new things called the iPod and iRiver. Since we lived in the complete opposite side of the US, and technology took time to get there, nobody had one. Around this time, my dad worked for a distributor of the Korean technology company, LG (and later Indian appliance company, Videocon). This led him to visiting Japan, where the hosts gave him a palm sized gadget. He came back and gave it to my brother and me. While we initially couldn't figure out what it was, we quickly made the connection to an iPod and figured it might be an MP3 player.
More importantly, I had just figured out a new modality to learn. As more students had MP3 players and cellphones with MP3 playback capabilities, I thought: how interesting would learning while listening be, instead of just books that exhausted our mind out?
I decided to create really exhaustive notes of the entire year's materials for multiple subject, and circulated it both in print and my voice recordings.
In college, like many other students, I got tempted by the idea of becoming a teacher's assistant. Working with students in a one-on-one capacity felt as important as being a sage-on-the-stage. I TA-ed atleast two classes, one on usability and accessibility of web design, and another on teaching and learning through educational technologies.
Somewhere in the middle of college came another opportunity: to teach a full-course to undergraduates. Yes, be a full lecturer, without graduating or having any strong credentials in academia. This was so so very exciting. It was a format that had worked well for the university, since they figured that if the learning was poor, students would probably not sign up for the class.
So I decided to teach how to design website and build web apps. It was such a humbling experience. Planning curriculum and figuring out how to be effective at teaching when students had their faces glued to a screen was really challenging. I had a lot of kids drop my class (this turns out to be a very good way to force teachers to figure out what they can do better). Among the few who remained, most found my material and assessment demands too rigorous. And a couple were cruising through it, as this was their easy-A class. A million learnings and more.
While working on OpenCurriculum in Mountain View, around 2016, I decided to spend some more time in the classroom. Through a program called "Science is Elementary", I volunteered to support teaching of science experiments to low-income primarily Hispanic, Asian, and Black elementary school children at Theuerkauf Elementary School in Mountain View Whisman School District.