Branching Out

“Mom, I think I really want to look into teaching in D.C. schools”

“Sweetie, I don’t think that’s a good idea, you won’t be safe”

So, here I am picking out my regions of focus for Teach for America. My mom is trying to convince me to pick a place with the least amount of crime, where the neighborhood isn’t “rough,” and where she thinks I could potentially see myself wanting to stay long term. I understand the inherently overprotective nature of my mother, but she doesn’t seem to understand the what I intend on doing when I graduate. I don’t want to be in my comfort zone, and further more I don’t want to constantly be thinking about my safety, where I see myself, and the neighborhood that am going to be living in. To be quite honest my hopeful endeavor with Teach for America won’t be primarily centered around my and my singular experiences. The focus of my journey with TFA will be on my students. My intent is to venture out of the middle class comfort zone I live in and to gain real perspective on the world around me. In order to be an effective educator you need to have a solid base of experience and perspective in order to truly empathize and connect with students. I want to enrich myself in the diversity and strength of the community I teach in, not solely keep myself to the comfortable confines of the suburbs. So my response to my mom was “I don’t want to be safe.” I don’t mean that I want to intentionally put myself in harms risks, but more so I don’t want to do what’s easiest. However, with that in mind I also intend on picking a place where I can see myself staying long term. My plan is to be in the program for significantly longer than the two year requirement. I don’t want to contribute to the high rate of attrition in urban schools.

On a side note, I’d quickly like to shed light on the issues opportunity when it comes to applying for jobs, internships, or whatever it may be. While applying for TFA I noticed an emphasis on “leadership positions.” Should people automatically be at a disadvantage if they haven’t held a specific position? Some students don’t have the opportunities to pursue coveted roles of leadership. Some children are so consumed by their course load, having to watch their siblings, working part time jobs, or are enduring personal struggles to even think twice about taking on a leadership position. So, why should this have a negative impact on their college application? Intern application? Or even job application? Equal opportunity for leadership positions also varies between schools. Some high schools offer an overwhelming amount of extracurricular activities, while some schools simply don’t have funding to support even a handful. Many low-income schools lack the proper funding or volunteer base to start certain programs. This could potentially be another factor that further perpetuates the gap between low-income students and middle-upper class students when it comes to applying for colleges.

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