My daughter starts preschool in four months. She is excited, because she knows her Daddy leaves her every morning to go to school. Some mornings she wakes up while I’m getting ready and comes to her door, rubbing the sleep from her eyes, questioning softly, “Daddy, you got school?” and I say, “Yeah, honey, Daddy’s got school today.” I then pick her up, give her a kiss, and tuck her back into bed. I know what she is thinking—if her own Daddy leaves her to go to school each day, then it must be something really important. It is.
I’ve been a high school English teacher for five years. I teach in an urban, low socio-economic school district that is challenging at times. Teaching keeps me grounded, keeps me smiling, even when I see some students resist and ultimately deny what I believe can truly empower them: an education.
I was lucky because I attended private schools. It wasn’t until I had children of my own that I realized the real price of an education. My parents must have been financial gurus to have figured out a way to send me to private school on the salaries of a printing press operator and a bank secretary.
Education was important to my parents. They checked my grades, my homework, and made sure I joined sports and the band. My father never asked me if I wanted to go to college. It wasn’t even a question; there was just the expectation that I would.
When I started teaching, I learned that not everyone was as lucky as I was. Some children have no expectations placed on them and some have no expectations of themselves. I don’t blame them; I don’t blame their parents; I don’t blame what I can’t control. All I can control is my classroom and I work hard each school day to ensure that my students get an education.
I often think of my daughter as I circulate my room. I look at my students and think of what she will be like as a high school freshman. I know she won’t be as excited to go to school as she is now, waiting in anticipation of her first day of preschool, but I hope she will at least value the importance of her education.
But who knows? She might embrace apathy and be the student in the corner who puts her head down no matter how engaging the lesson or how many times her teacher wakes her up. Even then, I would still hope her teacher would never give up, would still call home, would still plan even more engaging lessons, and would, essentially, still value her education even if she did not.
That is what I hope for and what I believe in—that education has the potential to empower, even if a student doesn’t believe it can. I’ve witnessed too many positive changes in students during the past five years to believe otherwise.
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