“I actually never thought much about being a teacher before because I always thought I would hate it.” Daniela, a sophomore student, shared this with me after our second Future Educator Leader Academy (FELA) meeting. FELA is a leadership organization created to introduce students, especially students of diverse backgrounds, to the field of education. At this meeting, we heard from a panel of educators from across the county who discussed their careers, why they chose them, and why they loved being educators.
Daniela, who recently moved to the US from the Dominican Republic and is new to our school this year, continued, “I joined because I have never been invited to be involved in a ‘leadership’ thing before. When I got the letter, I felt excited someone noticed me. But, now, I am actually interested in education. I think I would like to teach elementary art.”
The best parts of “my job” are getting to celebrate with students when they figure things out and support them when they need someone to lean on. Student voice has been an important part of our work in the FELA. I’ve led one-on-one conversations with students about their future plans and why they may consider a career in teaching.
Like Damaris, one of my juniors who is in both the FELA and in my US History class. She is a strong leader in the classroom and in the community. We talked about her voice as a Latina student who desires to become an educator, and how powerful it is. She said, “I never thought about the difference I could make for the lives of Hispanic children by becoming a teacher. I wish I had that. Now, I see I could be that for future kids. I keep thinking about those students who are learning English from Spanish-speaking backgrounds, and feel like outcasts. I can make them more comfortable. I’ve been there.”
“I was first attracted to special education when a teacher at West recommended me for the peer tutoring program. I fell in love with the students immediately. I love how they view the world and the joy they bring me every time I see them.” Caroline, a senior fellow of FELA told me as we discussed her desire to become a special educator. “Special Education and inclusion is so important. Schools need to serve all kids. Being a positive advocate for students with special needs is key. It’s so important to maximize the potential they have because they truly have so much to offer.” Caroline hit it home for me just how important and powerful these discussions can be for students.
A student that I have known for four years, Jason, confirmed this year that he wanted to explore a career in secondary history education. I have been talking with him about education for three years now, so you can imagine my excitement when I sat down to do his interview.
“Growing up as a kid, I’ve always taken an interest in history. I’ve wanted to go deeper, know more. Sometimes it’s frustrating because the stories and lessons I have been taught feel very one-sided. I want to teach history so I can tell that other side. I could help push future students to think about multiple perspectives. How can you get the entire picture from one point of view? Not only is it important to be a black male teaching history but, it is dire for minority teachers to be in schools generally. I could represent kids of color. I could help students of color on an academic and personal level, I mean, I get it. We’ve got to change the structure from the inside out. We have to build trust with minority students and parents. We need to make education a better experience for them.”
I am continuously blown away by my students. They teach me so much every day. The insights and compassion they have are inspiring. Showing students how their compassion for others is the perfect foundation for a career in education and giving them an opportunity to develop their leadership qualities are at the heart of the Future Educator Leader Academy.