Austin Reese, Alumnus, Reflects on Time at DBUWritten by Courtney Smith
- Published: April 19, 2018
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Continuing on in the month-long #shareDBU campaign, we are honored to hear from alumnus Austin Reese about some of his reflections of his time at DBU and his first few years as an algebra teacher.
Reese fondly refers to his time at DBU as a season of “laying the groundwork” for his career. Specifically, he reflected on the impact of his preparation and certain influential professors such as Dr. Debbie Tribble.
“I still have notes from her class to this day," he recalls, "filled with the many stories and pieces of knowledge she shared with us, and I frequently use the phrase that I heard her say almost five years ago: ‘Rules without relationship results in rebellion.’”
It was this concept of relationship that greatly shaped Reese’s philosophy of teaching.
“One of the most significant pieces of advice I ever received before I even stepped foot into my first classroom was this: ‘content will come, but classroom management takes time and is the area to invest in above all else.’ What that person was saying was that the content you are teaching will be readily available to present, either from other teachers or online resources, but if you’re not able to manage classroom behavior, no real learning will take place. I can print off an assignment ten minutes before class begins and check off the box of what to teach, but I cannot build strong, lasting relationships with my students in ten minutes. Lasting relationships that lead to a productive member of the classroom are formed through a daily devotion to a standard of excellence in my classroom and an intentional act to seek to get to know and understand my students day in and day out.”
While Reese values the opportunities to build relationships with his students, he shared that often teaching is a difficult task.
“It certainly does not always come easily. Every day, I am selling a product to my students that I know they do not want to buy. Every day, I am having to be creative as to how I am going to get my students to buy in and believe they can accomplish what I am putting in front of them.”
In the midst of challenge, Reese has a clear and distinct motivation to press on as a teacher.
“If I had a dollar for the number of times I have heard the phrase ‘I’ve never been good at math’ over the course of the last four years as a teacher, from both parents and students alike, I would be able to retire right now at the age of 26. But behind every “I’ve never been good at math,” there is always a prior experience that created that misconception. Sadly, I could write books on the stories my students tell me of how rude and discouraging previous math teachers have been to them."
"A young kid who already struggles with the conceptual understanding of numbers and how they fit together tries to seek out help from their teacher and gets completely squashed while doing so. In return, that student is defeated and completely unmotivated and unwilling to put him or herself out there again to attempt to gain understanding of the material. And their response? They give up. Every day becomes a struggle because they’ve lost interest. The student doesn’t pay attention, and as a result they begin to fail, not because they are unable to learn, but because they are unwilling to learn. The question then becomes ‘is this student failing because they don’t pay attention or are they not paying attention because they are failing’? The answer is yes, and this cycle continues until someone is willing and able to step into that cycle to break the self-fulfilling prophecy of failure."
"That is my motivation to teach. To flip the script. To breathe life and confidence into every student who walks through my door. To have a classroom environment where students are actually excited and look forward to coming.”
Reese and his wife, Amy, who is also a teacher, reside in Arlington and are expecting their first daughter, Quinn, this summer.