ESS Student Uncovers a Desire for Teaching by Digging into Data

My freshman year, I became a founding member of a baseball analytics team here at Notre Dame. Although I’ve never played baseball, it has always been my favorite sport, so I was enamored with the opportunity to “play” baseball with analytics. Led by a couple of juniors, we focused on researching college baseball, and then we worked with the varsity team to provide them with data-driven insights for practices and games. I was brand new to the technical aspects of our work and strived to be a diligent student learning from these juniors.

When these juniors graduated, they left me in charge to lead the team. All of a sudden, I was in the role of a teacher in some ways, given the opportunity and responsibility to teach new team members in the same ways that I was instructed two years prior. While I was able to focus on analytics in my first two years, now I had to focus on the work and development of my teammates. This shift was challenging at first, but I gradually began to see the beauty of my new role.

Seeing how my team members grew over the past two years has made this job very fulfilling. At the beginning of each year, I host a training session for Tableau, a software program we use for most of our work. Because many members come into the session with no prior experience, planning these gave me some exposure to lesson planning and teaching new concepts in a way that’s easy to understand. After they learn the basics, team members brainstorm their own projects to explore and complete throughout the semester. Prior to becoming president, I found that exploring projects that interested me led to the best and most innovative results, so I decided to encourage this in my team members as well. This idea was confirmed when I took an Education, Schooling, and Society class over winter break about the importance of student-led learning.

I’m encouraged when I see new team members finalizing their own projects and reports. Although I did little to help with these projects myself, I’m satisfied knowing that I was able to encourage them to explore their own questions further. For example, I had a freshman on the team two years ago who took charge on creating a report to assist our baserunners. Now his project is used in our weekly scouting reports, and he will be leading the team once I graduate. Because I have a team of students interested in baseball analytics for the sake of baseball analytics, I have no fears about leaving the club in their hands once I graduate.

After my first year leading the club, I decided that I wanted an opportunity to continue inspiring students to use their education to explore their interests. Teaching had always been on my mind as a career option, so ACE seemed like a perfect match for me. In the same way that my teammates got excited about learning baseball analytics techniques, I want my future students to be curious about what they are learning and have an urge to explore further. I want to be a teacher that can ignite and support each one of my students’ learning journeys.

Obviously, there are differences between leading an analytics team and leading a classroom. Everyone on my team joins voluntarily because they are interested in baseball analytics, while some of my future students may not have much interest in math. But leading this team has taught me the importance of giving people some responsibility and control over their learning, so that they are not just being lectured, but actively participating in the exploration of knowledge.

I want to recreate the curiosity I see in my teammates in my classroom this fall. At the end of my time with ACE, I hope to be able to leave the classroom and my students without fear, knowing that they are ready and eager to continue their learning journey on their own.

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