Teach for America’s future

Shane Wade
Opinion Editor

There are two misfortunes to being an English major: the inevitable war with your family to legitimize the value of your degree and the battle against the backhanded “So you want to be a teacher?” question. For some, it’s a constant struggle.

But, in striving to disassociate myself from teaching, I’m guilty of the same crime that many undergraduates commit: vilifying the teaching profession. While the rewards of teaching are primarily intrinsic, there’s also a deeply humanitarian aspect to it that we would all do well to respect and consider: the opportunity to inspire.

Illustration by Dan Nacu

Illustration by Dan Nacu
Illustration by Dan Nacu

Last week, a number of the state’s best educators came to VCU to do just that.

Members of the Teachers of Promise Institute and the Virginia Milken Educator Network work to inspire undergraduate and graduate student-teachers prior to receiving their first teaching position. At the two-day event, student-teachers, paired with mentors, attended and participated in seminars and group discussions.

One of the troubling truths to come out of the event, however, is that it’s not publically funded. Funding comes largely from private donations through the Teachers of Promise Foundation, according to event organizers. The lack of public funding indicates a lack of government involvement.

Local and state governments have undergone budget cuts to the education budget, cuts that might suggest they’re less inclined to care about the welfare of the public education system. To counteract those cuts, they need to support initiatives that reach out to college students of all majors, even if they haven’t expressed an interest in teaching.

While teaching certainly isn’t a career for everyone, it’s an opportunity that everyone should consider because it allows us to give back and significantly improve the public education system that helped shape us into who we are today. In spite of the many misgivings those of us who went to public school might have about our upbringing, it’s a large factor in who we are today.

It’s no surprise that public education is, at times, static, unintentionally oppressive and fraught with inefficiencies. Bluntly put, some of us were abused by the system. We can all cite a point in our public school experience where we thought “I wish (the teacher or the school  administrators) would…”

Now, we can make those changes.

America needs teachers who see themselves as fresh individuals to inspire the millions of students who spend roughly seven hours a day in classrooms.

The teaching profession is in great need of men, minorities and young adults to adapt to the changing populace. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, only about 24 percent of teachers are males.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics found that only about 9 percent of the nation’s 6.5 million teachers are African-American.

Teachers need to be as active, engaged and diverse as their students. They need to be as reflective of the modern American experience as their students.

With the proliferation of digital technologies and social media websites, our generation has a relationship with the upcoming generations that hasn’t been available in years.

We owe it to the more than 50 million children in the public school system, including our own future children, nieces and nephews, to do our part to help reconstruct and modernize our system of education. Public schools are a multi-billion dollar sector of our economy, not counting the innumerable opportunity cost within each of those 50 million children.

Do some research and learn more about the teaching profession, as well as VCU’s own extended teacher preparation program.

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