To Teach or Not To Teach? How shadowing at Teach for America helped one UCLA student decide if a career in teaching is right for her

This past spring break over 45 UCLA students participated in the UCLA Career Center’s “Career PREP” program, which offers first and second year students the opportunity to participate in a one-day externship in order to explore a career field of their choice.  Here’s one of their stories… 


Clara Chan
First-year student
Business Economics major
Shadowed at Teach for America

This spring break, the UCLA Career Center gave me a wonderful opportunity to shadow a Teach For America corps member for my externship. For those of you who do not know, an externship gives the student a chance to shadow a host employer for one day and gain a better understanding about the daily work involved in a particular industry.

On March 24th, I nervously headed to my host’s classroom at Magnolia Science Academy, a low-income urban school. As part of its mission, Teach For America strove to help children in low-income communities receive a quality education. When I first walked in, I was graciously welcomed by my host, who turned out to be a UCLA alumni as well. That day, I was most fortunate to help her 8th grade Algebra 1 students with the quadratic formula. In addition to helping each table apply the formula to their math problems, I also helped them review for their quiz at the end of class.

Overall, this externship further strengthened my dream to become a math teacher and made me realize how much I loved working with kids. It was particularly the students’ “Aha!” moment when they understood how to solve a problem that made me feel being a teacher was worth it.  At the same time, after witnessing the challenge of maintaining classroom discipline and in consideration of my soft-spoken attitude, I decided to continue as a business economics major and consider teaching as a short-term occupation instead. The most important thing, however, was that come time to apply for teaching jobs, Teach For America would be the first on my list because it allowed me to practice my passion and assist those who truly needed help at the same time.