I applied for the Education Scholars program hoping to work with students. My experience this summer, though, could hardly have been more different while still working in the field of education.
In my work at Teach For America Charlotte, I have rotated through four different groups—Alumni, Programming, Development, and the Executive Director team—working on various projects and tasks. My hours are 9-5 and I spend most of the time at a desk or in meetings. The classroom is distant, but the mission isn’t.
My rotations have allowed me to see the parts of TFA that support the work of the corps members and how that work directly impacts students. The work ranged from surveying alumni about TFA’s support to researching prospective partnerships in the community for Development to working through paperwork for Programming to keep corps member’s information up-to-date.
The summer has been nothing like what I hope for when I applied, but I have loved my position and have benefited greatly from my experience. Thanks to my rotations, I have learned about some of the numerous factors at play and have a much greater appreciation for the breadth of work being done in education.
I’m coming out of the summer with more knowledge, skill and passion than I had going into it. I have a greater appreciation for those who commit themselves to improving education. I better understand the challenges and problems plaguing the current system. I have seen the detrimental effects of silo-ing and the need for collaboration and fresh perspectives. I have experienced some of the ups and downs of working in education. I have met individuals that have turned around classrooms and schools. I recognize that I, too, can play a role in reforming education. But I also recognize the need for humility, that it takes collective action across a system to sustain change. I have experienced a lot, and am thankful for it.
This summer has been a privilege. Davidson created an innovative program and opened doors for me and my fellow Education Scholars through our internships and my co-workers gave me opportunities to work on projects that interested and challenged me. The orientation and workshops gave us access to great thinkers and our group reflections allowed us to share our insight and learn from each other’s experiences and perspective. I know that this type of learning is a privilege and am aware of how inaccessible it is to so many.
I would like to set the bar of public education high, to have it strive for innovative learning. But such involved, community-based program courses seem out of touch with the struggles of the current system.
I find myself coming back to a question our group asked during orientation: Does education need reform or revolution? I support school reform, but sometimes it seems like gradual reform is impeding substantial progress and the implementation of innovative programming that would follow. Will slow and gradual improvements prevent the changes necessary to make public education both equitable and excellent? What would revolutionizing education even look like? Could it be flipping classrooms and implementing technology wherever possible? Or is it paying teachers a fair and livable salary that rewards performance? Or is revolutionizing education something more radical?
I recognize that my summer experience has been a privilege, but education, excellent and equitable education, is a right and it’s time the everyone start treating it as such.