A year ago, I would not have foreseen myself working in the educational system.
Although throughout my life I considered being a teacher, and even spent a few semesters of college playing with the idea of continuing for a masters in secondary education, that was not the path I settled on in my final semester of college, when I was supposed to “have things together.”
Just over a year ago, I met with someone from Teach For America to talk about becoming a corps member. I was intrigued by the mission to provide high-quality education in under-served areas, the fact that I could gain experience in education without having studied it in college, and that many alumni went on to work in the non-profit sector. I decided to attend a “field trip” where I and other interested individuals from around Indiana would visit Teach For America schools in Indianapolis.
The visit was an eye-opener. I saw why Center Township (the area being served in Indy) needed passionate individuals to promote education in the community. However, I was disappointed in the breach that I saw between the TFA teachers and the teachers who had gotten their certification during their post-secondary training. I was concerned that, despite a common goal, this wall would create roadblocks in the system. Additionally, I wasn’t sure I wanted to work with an entire classroom-full of students, only addressing their academic needs. I decided that this would not be the path for me.
My decision was only confirmed by my experience as a tutor in a bilingual immersion school that same fall as part of a service-learning class on immigration. At this IPS school, I worked with first graders as individuals or in small groups. I appreciated that I was better able to target a child’s needs, and to get to know them better than I would if I were teaching to a whole class. I got to talk with the students about their home lives, and my heart ached for every kid whose parents didn’t care about their education, or worse, whose parents weren’t able to live in this country with them. I wanted to help these kids in so many ways beyond what their teachers could do for them in school. So, while I took great joy in inspiring kids to love learning, I thought I needed another way to care for them.
Along the way, I’ve been shown other opportunities to address the needs of children. Of course, in Honduras I’ve seen what just a little love and time can do for a child. Through training as a Girls On The Run coach, I realized that you can inspire a child’s physical and emotional well-being while teaching them important life lessons. And, finally, all my experiences with children have only reaffirmed that I am called to family life someday.
So, after praying for a unique position that would allow me to care for kids’ total well-being, why did God lead me to become an instructional assistant in a public elementary school? As of today, I don’t know the answer. What I do know is that in the past three weeks I have become determined to help my students develop their literacy skills, but also to be a role model to them. I want to be someone that they can respect, and someone who can inspire them to learn everyday, even if it’s something outside my lesson plan. I want them to see the good in the world around them. I see the good, and potential, in the world in them, and am learning from my time with them more than they may be learning from me.