New Teachers: Mr. Song-Sjodahl

What’s up? My name is Mr. Song-Sjodahl and I teach AP US History and History Honors. I’m glad to be here. It’s a great group of people, and I’m having a good time so far.

I have been teaching for about six years; I taught for about three and a half years in Japan at public and private middle schools, and I taught for a little over two years in China at international schools. Last year, I was teaching at a specialized ed school and now I’m here. This is actually my first year at a public school in the US, which is a very different experience.

I actually have my own classroom here so that’s nice. That’s not a norm in the Asian countries I’ve worked in. In those countries, the teachers move around, and the students all stay in one place, which is great. I’m glad it’s this way at Irvington because I’m very lazy and I don’t want to walk around if I don’t have to. Some other differences, not to be overly critical of different education systems, is kind of the top-down approach of education in those societies, where it’s very much like the teacher talks and everybody writes it down and memorizes it. That’s kind of the method of learning there and it doesn’t encourage or inspire as much creative work, individual thought processing, or even questioning things, which is my favorite thing to do. That’s probably one of the biggest differences I see between the education systems there and here. Oh, and everybody here gets my jokes. Yeah, some of them do, at least. 

Before getting into teaching, I worked as a dishwasher in a restaurant, in customer service, retail, restaurants, and odd jobs like that and that really didn’t inspire me very much. I think what inspired me to want to be a teacher had a lot more to do with seeing how my high school teachers inspired and influenced students. I was hoping to teach at the university level, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that work at the university level is mostly about research and all that fun stuff. The teaching always came secondary, and I wasn’t terribly fond of that. I guess that’s what brought me into this environment of teaching.

As a teacher, I like to keep the class engaging and make history as relatable as possible. History is just nuts. I think being able to point that out and poke fun at stuff is a great way to keep people engaged in general. I think looking at the weird aspects of history can give you a kind of a broader understanding of humans, and people in general. Like civilizations sometimes come about just as much by accident as they do by intent. I kind of like to tie that into relatable puns of how all those events lead into where we are today, and I think that’s what’s really interesting to me. I hope other people think the same.