Understanding Community Context in Teaching | University of Virginia Darden School of Business Business-school Application Essay

At the core of a successful leader is a strong sense of personal responsibility. In this global economy, that means taking the initiative to understand the culture of people with whom we work. When I was teaching, I learned that the only truly effective way for me to lead my students was by understanding the culture in which they lived. It took a student named Tony to teach me this.

My second year teaching, I entered the classroom expecting to really have everything under control. After all, I had already spent an entire year in the classroom; this was supposed to be the year I knew what to do. Then I met Tony. From day one, Tony refused to do any of his homework. He began failing the class within the first month because he came to class unprepared every single day. I tried everything I could think of to get Tony to start studying and doing his homework. I came up with incentives to reward him for coming to class prepared and offered to stay late at school so that he could study in the classroom, but every attempt I made seemed futile. I called home frequently to speak with his mother, but she spoke limited English and her work schedule was so demanding that she wasn’t able to be home in order to monitor Tony’s homework. During…

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