I’ve been running some different kinds of races (off the track) over the last year and a half. Races against injustices. Races against flawed education policies. Races against a system that has been stacked against students like mine for decades.
I’ve had the opportunity to run these races both as a classroom teacher and now an administrator at CCA Dana Middle School. We are part of United Schools Network. Our network engages mostly with the Franklinton, Hilltop, and Near East Side communities– some of the most academically under-served zip-codes in Columbus. Our vision at United Schools Network is “for every child an open door.” I strongly believe that a student’s zip code should not determine the quality of education, and therefore the quality of opportunity, that a student has in life.
This work is challenging, but insanely rewarding.
There are days when I spend hours on the phone, trying to obtain transportation for my students when traditional busing fails to show up for them– an issue that occurs at a significantly higher frequency in lower income areas than affluent ones (thus widening education gap).
There are days when non-academic barriers prevent my students from coming to school rested, nourished, and ready to learn.
There are days when I feel like I can’t possibly work hard enough to give our students everything that they deserve.
There are days that a student works insanely hard to bring a C to a B, or B to an A, and they rush to my desk to tell me because they are SOOO pumped.
There are days when a student is having a hard day, but they are able to persevere through and show resilience– a skill many adults I know are still struggling to develop.
There are days when a group of students walk 6 miles to school through the snow (yes– this happened) because their bus never showed up. Then they say, “school and education are important, so we found a way to get here,” when they arrive to school. Talk about grit.
USN believes that every student should have the opportunity to go to college– not just students that come from high performing traditional public school districts. Our students want to go to college. Their faces light up when we talk about it.
The other day, I taught a student how to throw up an “I-O” response to my “O-H.” He told me he wanted to be a Buckeye.
One of my students told me she was going to go to Alabama because she wants to say, “Roll Tide.”
Even though it nearly killed me, I learned the Michigan fight song (yes, the real version– not the Columbus version) because one of my students has a goal of attending U of M to become a “teacher or a doctor or both,” in his words.
A 7th grade student looked at me deep in thought the other day and told me he was going to be the first person in his family to go to college. He was so proud. So was I.
As I drove East on 70 this morning, I was smiling the entire time. I love my job. I love our students. I love our mission. How lucky am I to have a job that makes getting up the Monday after a Holiday break fun?
I believe our students are worth it. I believe a quality public education is a right, not a privilege. The zip code a child is born in should not determine their academic opportunity.
If this is something that resonates with you, I encourage you to give and support our students this Giving Tuesday. Give with me. Run with me.
You can support USN students by donating to Brain Boosters. Check out the Brain Boosters Video our students helped create below.