Sean Kerrane, Group 3 Teacher
Sean Kerrane started teaching at NCCL in 1998 but has been with the school since 1993 when he worked in the child care program. He was the Child Care Director for two years before graduating from the University of Delaware with a Bachelors degree in Elementary Education and a minor in Native American History. Before graduating, he won the "Student Teacher of the Year" award for Brandywine School District. After graduating, he took a job teaching English as a second language at La Universidad Tecnologica in Panama City, Panama. While in Panama, he also had a chance to teach for a month in a bilingual elementary school and after spending almost a year there, he now speaks Spanish fluently.
Interview with Sean Kerrane (NCCL Newsletter, 1999)
Group 3 teacher Sean Kerrane first heard about NCCL when his sister Kate started teaching here. He filled in for Kate from time to time and also worked in the aftercare program between his classes at the University of Delaware. He spent two years as the Director of NCCL's childcare program while he finished his degree in Elementary Education with a minor in Native American History. Sean said that his early experiences at NCCL reinforced his teaching philosophy and led him to want to teach here after graduation, even though that wasn't his original goal when he decided to become a teacher. "At the University of Delaware, we were taught Social Constructivism. It was nice that I was getting the theory at the University and was able to see it in practice here at NCCL. I felt that was a real advantage for me, and a real pull for me to teach here. I knew I'd be working in a system where I was supported, that I'd be able to teach with people who had a similar philosophy and the same kind of passion, and I knew that would be very rewarding for me. I did want to teach in a public school and work with kids in a city school or with at-risk kids, and so I had to struggle with that. But, being a young teacher, I felt it made sense for me to go a place where I could really hone my skills and be able to teach in a supportive environment. I do feel challenged by kids here in similar ways that I would be if I were working with at-risk kids."
Helping the kids to grow academically is rewarding for Sean. "I'm trying to get them to slow down and be patient with their writing. Try out different things and tinker around a little bit, because that's where you really see the growth and the progress. Get them to look at how a piece of writing has developed over the course of a week or two—that experience is invaluable for kids. I really enjoy that. The kids see why that's important in a concrete way when they've just done a quick draft and they continue to work on it for a week and see where they end up. There's a real difference and it stays with them." Sean also wants the kids to become more aware of what they're doing academically. "In kindergarten through third grade, kids are learning to read. After that, they're reading to learn. By the time they come to our class we're trying to get them to process what they're reading, get them to develop a voice not just as writers, but also to be able to analyze and critique literature. The kids have to deal with more abstract ideas at this age as well."
Another challenge is helping the Group 3 kids to deal with increasing levels of accountability. "By the time the kids get to our classroom, they have a lot more responsibility than they ever had. Socially, they're maturing. Some kids aren't used to that kind of responsibility, and getting them to take that on is a challenge at times."
Sean feels that he's in just the right place for him. "I really enjoy working with the age group I teach. I've worked with a lot of different age groups, and I feel like this is the age group that works best with the way I teach. The kids are old enough to appreciate an adult sense of humor in some respects, but they're still very much kids, and that's fun. You get to see a lot of growth in kids at this age. They really make a lot of leaps, so that's very rewarding as well."
Sean spent a month teaching at a bilingual elementary school in Panama while he was still a student. "It was a really great experience for me. I had always been interested in the social aspects of teaching and working with students that were different from myself." He lived with a Panamanian family in a tough neighborhood. The family introduced to him to other people in the neighborhood and he made friends quickly. Sean's experience whetted his appetite for a return visit to Panama. He was able to do so after he graduated that December, this time to teach English as a second language at La Universidad Tecnologica. "I didn't have any background in teaching English as a second language, but I felt comfortable enough as a teacher that I'd be able to figure it out and adapt." Sean found that teaching adults was very different from teaching children. "I didn't have to plan the logistics as much—how you're going to make sure the students are doing what they're supposed to be doing. With adults you get almost 100% cooperation, so I was able to focus on a kind of teaching that was unfamiliar to me." Sean's time in Panama broadened his perspective on life. "The real benefit for me, and what I found to be the most rewarding about the whole experience, wasn't necessarily the teaching but living with another family and living in another country for that long, meeting so many different people." Sean, a Newark native, met his wife at the Universidad in Panama.
Sean realized at a young age that he wanted to teach. "The reason I got into teaching was that I love kids. I started working at camps when I was about 15 and did that every summer. I always enjoyed it and looked forward to it. I got a sense that that was something I wanted to do with my life. I just loved being around kids. It was very intoxicating for me; it energized me." He enjoys the dynamic nature of working with kids. "You don't always know what's going to happen, and it isn't always going to work out the way you had planned. That's part of what's exciting about teaching and I wouldn't want to give that up. I like that rawness that you get from kids."