I do it for the kids.
I recently attended a final interview for a teacher preparation program. I drove 7 hours, post Pi Day event, all the way to D.C. for a chance at becoming one of the most skilled teachers in the country. Something I heard during the question and answer segment of my interview has been on my mind ever since.
One of the current residents said that if you think you’re going to be a hero, and save all of these kids, then you need to reevaluate your motivations for pursuing a career in urban education. The words struck me as harsh but exceedingly true.
I’ll be the first one to admit that I do what I do with City Year for my students. I care deeply about each and every one of them. City Year is tough. This year has pushed me to my limits, but each time I want to give up, I think about the faces of the kids I work with. I come to school to watch them progress and to have the honor of being a support for their growth.
I do not see myself as a savior. I am not a hero. My students are heroes. My students are the most amazing people I’ve ever met. They inspire me, and though I tutor and mentor them, they teach me so much. So when I reflect on the words I heard at this interview, I find myself double checking my values and my motivations.
The state of education, in general, is in desperate need of reform. Low income, underserved, disadvantaged, urban schools in particular need change. I believe that education is a right and that every child, no matter where they come from, deserves a quality education. I believe that change in a community comes from within.
I think about City Year and our ability to partner with members of community and community organizations to create sustainable change. I can only speak for myself, but I am not swooping into Linden on a white horse. That isn’t what anyone needs. My kids don’t need to be saved. No, I am a very small cog in the immense mechanical organism of change. I form relationships, help raise some grades and test scores, and hopefully make school a better place for my kids. Maybe they’ll remember me when they’re older, maybe they won’t. But they will never forget the diploma they get 4 years from now.
Darcy McCarthy, first year Corps Member, the AT&T team at Linden McKinley STEM Academy