As we ring in the first week of May with both Teacher Appreciation Week and National Charter Schools Week, we are reminded of the importance of our educators and the reasons that lead them to the front of the classroom each and every day. As I skim through many inspirational stories shared by teachers, I’m reminded of why I chose to work in education. His name was Jose.
In 2005, I was the Director of Community Service at The Journey Church, a young Christian church in the heart of New York City. In this role, I often led teams of church members in service at community homeless shelters, soup kitchens, and afterschool programs. One afternoon, while volunteering at an afterschool center in the East Village, I met a 12-year-old boy named Jose. At the end of our time together, I asked Jose, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Jose smiled and answered, “A taxi driver!” (Note: This was long before the age of Uber!). Curious to learn more, I asked why. Jose replied, “Because they make a lot of money.” I was saddened. As we chatted further, I realized that Jose did not dream of becoming a taxi driver because it sounded fun or exciting or because he found the work meaningful. Jose dreamed of being a taxi driver because it was the biggest dream he reasonably allowed himself to have. He knew he didn’t have a lot of money and that his life would be harder as a result. In his community, the people who made the most money were taxi drivers; therefore, that’s what he aspired to be. Like too many kids, Jose’s dreams were limited by his education and exposure. Despite his incredible aptitude and potential, he lacked the education and environment to both dream big and achieve those dreams.
This encounter with Jose got me thinking about how I had been dedicating my time and service in New York to surface-level solutions, like soup kitchens or homeless shelters. While these programs were extremely important and made a meaningful impact on the lives of those being served, they merely addressed the manifestation of the problem. They did not provide long-term solutions; they were band-aids. I started to see education as a deeper solution that went further than just learning information from a book for a test. I saw its ability to unlock the God-given potential in every child, expand kids’ dreams, and give them the skills to achieve those dreams. And ultimately, the ability of education to break the generational cycle of poverty.
When we effectively educate a child, not only does it profoundly impact that child’s life, but it impacts their future, their family, and their community at large. A great education will not eliminate the challenges stacked against those living in poverty, but it absolutely makes those challenges easier to address, overcome, and eventually, solve.
At WorkMonger, we connect our JobSeekers to impact-driven jobs in education. While these are non-teaching roles such as finance, operations, strategy, fundraising, and curriculum design, they are still instrumental in ensuring all children have access to an excellent education. Whether or not we’re in the classroom, it’s important to remain cognizant of what personally motivates us to do this work. For me, Jose embodies the millions of children nationwide who lack access to an excellent education and the freedom to dream that comes with it.
What is your motivation? What inspired you to work in education, and what empowers you to keep going each and every day?
We would love to hear about the experiences and the reasons that inspired you. Please share in the comments below and tweet at @theworkmonger using #whyeducation!