Wow, it’s been about half a year since my last blog post, and since I’ve joined Teach For America. And no kidding: I’ve really been that busy with teaching. Swamped. I am thoroughly convinced that teachers have the hardest job in the world. And not just because of the insane long hours (which is reason enough in itself) but also how much teachers influence. I mean, it’s only the future of our society that’s on the line (no pressure or anything?).
In the wake of the recent Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy, I’ve been reflecting a lot on the role of a teacher in shaping young minds and hearts on a day-to-day basis. I teach 2nd grade. That young 7-year-old African American boy in my classroom could grow up to be the next president of the United States of America. But I can’t forget that the same child could be the next mass murderer to make the front page of USA Today.
So am I saying that teachers are the key to everything?
Looking back at my old blog posts on here, I chuckle at the naive, almost selfish me half a year ago when I first submitted my letter of commitment to Teach For America upon being accepted. I somehow thought I would immediately “change the world”–rushing into inner-city schools as a knight in shining armor to rescue kids from poverty.
Don’t get me wrong. I still strongly believe with all my heart that teachers play a critical, irreplaceable role in children’s development and in fighting educational inequity. I don’t doubt it for a millisecond. However, through my own firsthand experience teaching thus far and seeing with my own eyes/ears/heart how bureaucracy and politics can play out at the K-12 level, I now have more conviction than ever that the battle of educational inequity cannot be fought by classroom teachers alone. The best teacher in the world could only do so much in a society that builds more prisons than schools. The best teacher in the world could only do so much when a school district rates its teachers based on how well they teach their students to bubble in A/B/C/D alphabet characters on standardized tests……rather than how well they teach their students to be people of character.
We need an unwavering partnership of so many other entities. Parents. K-12 administrators. Administrators in higher ed. Government officials. Lobbyists. Businesspeople. Lawyers. Mental health professionals. Physicians. Everyday citizens. You. Me.
I’ve been asked a lot lately by friends who are curious about my future career plans, and also a few folks who read my blog posts and are in a similar situation as me half a year ago. “What are you doing after Teach For America?” they ask.
First off, I don’t like it when questions are phrased like that. This is not about ME. I would prefer: “What are you doing about EDUCATION after Teach For America?”
And besides, to be honest, I have no idea at this point. I do know that whatever I do, I will stay committed to fighting educational inequity. I do have ideas; in fact, I have bold visions. Maybe I will continue classroom teaching for many years. Maybe I will open up my own school. Maybe I will go back to a career of higher education administration that I had already started but abruptly left. Maybe I will apply to law school to advocate for education through the legal arena.
Whatever I end up doing, I know these things for sure:
* I am privileged enough to even be able to think these thoughts and have options, which I know many of the children I teach and their families unfortunately do not. This is the very reason I am so committed to fighting for educational equity.
* As a current teacher, on a day-to-day basis I am shaping the young minds and hearts of the amazing children in my classroom. Including those who aspire to be the next President of the United States of America. I will make the most of it.
P.S. A note I got from one of my kids…
I still have to teach him to capitalize his own name and write a period at the end of a sentence….but for now, I can only smile.