By Tanvi Gahlot, ISW Youth Reporter
“What do you want to be when you grow up?” every high schoolers nightmare, or not? This question may seem haunting at first, but it gives students an opportunity to think about what we are interested in. In the following interview. Ms. Rhea Vyas, an IYG alumni and Worcester elementary teacher talks about the field of education, it’s challenges, and it’s rewards.
Tanvi Gahlot: What advice would you give to high schoolers who are interested in having a future career in education, like you?
Rhea Vyas: One of the reasons I went into the field of education was because I was very passionate about making an impact and teaching kids. Although sometimes teaching young kids might seem like an easy job, it actually requires a lot of effort. You need to be willing to put the needs of 20-30 kids before yours and have the patience to help each of those kids. So my main piece of advice would be to ask yourself “are you willing to put yourself in uncomfortable positions?” and also to ask yourself “why do you want to go into the field of education”. At the end if you are truly passionate about it, then the job becomes fun and enjoyable each day.
Tanvi Gahlot: How important do you believe having a focused education through high school is?
Rhea Vyas: I think it’s very important. Personally I didn’t know I wanted to go into teaching till my senior year of high school, because of this I always dreaded the question “what do you want to be when you grow up?”. Throughout high school I juggled between different fields of science, business, and law. However, I did know that I was very passionate about working with kids. I eventually decided on pursuing it as a career during my senior year, even though it had been my passion since I was a young child. Also, being a South Asian it seems as though your options are very limited to being an engineer, doctor, or business woman; and I just felt that I was never represented in a teacher I had. This also motivated me into eventually deciding on the field of education as my career.
Tanvi Gahlot: How would you describe your first year of teaching, considering it was very different due to Covid?
Rhea Vyas: I teach in the main south side of Worcester, which is one of the most low income, poverty ridden schools in the state. This means that many of my students are homeless or have issues with parental custody and some even live with up to 2-3 families in one apartment. These kids have lots of challenges in their background, but these challenges don’t define who they are. Throughout the year I taught first graders (5-6 year old) and these kids don’t let their home life, their family, and their challenges define them. For all the kids around the county this was a very difficult year, where we started off completely remote up till March. This was also difficult for me because I wasn’t just teaching 20 students, I was teaching 20 students and their families who were all listening to what I was saying.
Tanvi Gahlot: What led you to pick your particular grade that you teach?
Rhea Vyas: Well since I am an elementary I have a teaching licence which will allow me to teach any grades from first to sixth. So when I applied for a job at the school they had an opening for a first grade teacher. In a sense I have some choice in the grades I teach, but I don’t get to pick from between first to sixth.
Tanvi Gahlot: What hobbies do you have that allow you to get your mind off work?
Rhea Vyas: Considering that most days involve 12-16 hours of preparation for the following day(s) I didn’t get much time for hobbies. However, I did learn the importance of balance and did end up developing some hobbies which include traveling and painting by numbers. I especially like the very detailed ones because they give me something to focus on.