This interview was conducted and written by EF Academy New York ambassador Melissa.
Hi! My name is Melissa Kina, I am from Brazil and I am currently a junior here at EF Academy New York. I’ve interviewed Ms. Divya Jesudoss, who is my IB Psychology teacher.
Ms. Divya teaches business management and psychology at EF Academy and has been teaching here for 4 years now. However, she has been in the education world for more than 20 years. In her hometown in India, it is common to major in 3 areas for your bachelor’s degree, and that is why she has a major in Economics, English literature and Psychology.
Ms. Divya has always been an inspiration to me since I first came here to EF Academy in September 2021. These few months have really enlightened me regarding what I want to do with my life and what kind of person I want to become, and a big part of my decision is due to her effort and care for her students during class time. Every time I leave that classroom I strive to be better. I really look up to her and she makes me want to be a better learner and just a better person overall. That is why I chose to interview her today.
What do you like most about teaching at EF Academy?
The international presence is what I find most attractive. I’ve been in international teaching for the best part of my career, but in Asia, we tend to have more representation from that region, so this is my first exposure to students from South America, North America… And I think having more of that learning, how to interact with students from this part of the world and their exposure and their perspective is definitely very attractive.
What made you choose to work with teenagers? I think you told me that you used to teach at universities before choosing to teach high school?
Yes, when I started my career I started [teaching] at university for about 5 and a half, 6 years. I loved it, there was no homework to grade, and there was no messing around with little details, but I think that what I missed was being a part of decision-making because a lot of students had already made up their minds about what they would want to do with their lives, career choices. Those decisions had been made, and that’s why they were there. There was definitely a chance for me to be involved and support them, but I realized that there was more action in the step just before they get into university. I think finding my way into teaching the IB diploma opened up a whole new world for me because it’s a rigorous course and I enjoy being a part of influencing, supporting, and guiding students into that thinking process, that decision-making process; it’s a very critical time and even if it’s only 2 years, maybe a maximum of 2 years when our lives will overlap, but in that window of time there’s a lot that we can give and take.
How was it like growing up in India and did it influence you in any way to come here to the US to teach?
I would never trade my childhood for anything, I love my childhood, I loved living in India. Of course, it was normal, I haven’t traveled a lot in my early childhood, but I think that my childhood in India taught me to never give up, and never make excuses. If you want to be somebody, you’ve got to work your way up and never apologize for experiences that you had that make you who you are. Be strong because of it; shake it off if it hurts, let it sting if it stings and move on. I think that attitude has built me up and has allowed me to see the strength and the opportunity more than what weighs you down. I think it has been helpful for me to draw from that when I am working with young people as well because a lot of the time it’s easy for people that I converse with to think that “oh you grew up in India, that must have been hard,” well I didn’t think it was hard, it was life, it was normal. And I think that’s a good perspective to have for life because you never really know what curve of balls is coming your way, it’s never going to be the way you planned, it’s never going to be perfect like you have imagined, but you can still make something really good out of it.
How working with teenagers made you grow professionally and personally? Are there any valuable lessons you have learned while teaching?
Definitely, every day. I think working with high schoolers keeps you young in your mind and it pushes you because teenagers are not dumb. You are at a very intelligent place in your life where you are asking big questions and you are pushing for answers. As an educator, I think it is important that I realize that I don’t have all the answers, but it is also then my responsibility to make myself better and sharper to be better equipped every year, in every class, in every week that goes by. I have come a long way since when I first started teaching. Sometimes I look back and say “I could’ve done that better when I first started” but I didn’t know any better, now I do. And I still feel like maybe I have another 10-15 years in a classroom, but there’s lots more to learn, there’s lots more to do and I think it pushes me to reflect on what I am expecting of my students, which should be the same thing I am expecting of myself; if I’m expecting them to do any better, to do anything different, to beat the challenge in a different way, then I have to do that first. And I think that has certainly helped in my personal growth and my professional growth, always looking for new ideas, for new strategies, for new things that I can learn to keep myself relevant. What else is there in life?
There are a lot of things that I would do differently if I was in a position to do so and there are a lot of things that I disagree with on a daily basis, the way things are done or whatever it is but they are always going to be there. At the end of the day, I’m living my dream, there’s nothing I would do differently. There’s nothing that I want more than to be able to enjoy a classroom experience. And it’s not about a subject, if I was given the choice, I would go back to economics because economics is my first love, but it’s really about learning, understanding people, trying to get into someone’s head, and saying “how might they be thinking and how can I put in a little bit of a spark here and inspire them there, show them something, point out something”. It’s not about me teaching somebody. In a classroom it’s more about what can we enjoy learning and discovering together and you might think that teaching the same course for 20+ years can get boring but I tell you, it never does because no 2 classes are the same and that is what keeps me interested because every student sitting here brings a different dynamic. You can teach the same topic in 5 different classes on a given day and have 5 very different experiences and learn something from it all. Education is a marvelous world, it really is.
Do you have advice for your students regarding education, careers, university and/or personal life?
I would say, and I say this often to my students: don’t pursue perfection, pursue excellence. You will never be perfect, but you can always pursue excellence. And like I say in class, make mistakes, make good mistakes, but never make the same mistake twice.