After graduation, where will you lead?
I’m planning to join Teach for America and teach middle school science in Baltimore next year. My faithful community is worried about the challenges I’ll face as a first-year teacher. But mostly, people are confused.
I have wrestled with how to best respond to these questions.
Do I tell them how I have seen the education system neglect the human dignity of many vulnerable and marginalized people? Do I tell them I can’t just stand and watch injustice? Do I tell them how much it bothers me to see segregated school systems still prevalent in 2016? Or how it breaks my heart to see the disparities between affluent and low-income schools?
I believe that the classroom is a powerful place for social change, where all of my identities and experiences can come together to help pave a different path for my future students.
When I think about the issues, I am most passionate about student diversity, access to food and shelter, race relations and bringing STEM into low-income communities. I‘ve come to realize that there’s no better place to tackle them head on than in the classroom.
After all, education is the most powerful tool at our disposal to disrupt inequity and create opportunity.
As a kinesiology major, I love learning about the many sub-disciplines that come together to create a holistic approach to the mind and body through rehabilitation, sport, exercise and play.
However, even as kinesiology continues to grow on many college campuses around the country, the field lacks diversity.
As a middle school teacher, I have the unique opportunity to instill a love of science in all of my students so that they feel confident taking on a career of their choice.
I have the ability to use my privilege to empower and inspire my students to recognize their potential and possibly become a physical therapist, exercise physiologist or sport psychologist.
I’ve worn many hats during my time as a student: Cru Ministry Leader, server at BJ’s restaurant and Peace and Security Chair of GenUN, a national initiative of UNA-USA to engage and energize young supporters around UN issues.
All of these experiences have helped to define who I am, my values and what I’m most passionate about.
But through all of these different experiences, I’ve found a common thread: We must be the change we seek in this world.
So as you consider which path you’ll forge after graduation, I encourage you to listen to the voice that tells you to do what’s a little unexpected.
Listen to the experiences that have defined your college career thus far. Step out of your comfort zone. I hope you’ll find that your path is richer for it.
Caleb Burkes is a kinesiology major. He is also a 2017 Teach for America-Baltimore corps member.