Song of the moment: John Legend, “Home Again.” It may be long to get me there. It feels like I’ve been everywhere, but someday I’ll be coming home.
I left home with three large suitcases and a dream. I grew up in a failing school district and wanted to experience first-hand the problems teachers faced in the classroom. Everything from a student’s socioeconomic status to family support to administrative support to standardized testing pressures, and so on. Many of my peers at home are shining examples of how an impoverished school system could drastically alter their life’s opportunties. I knew and still believe that every child can and will learn with the proper support network, one that many schools in low-income and under-resourced communities fail to provide. With that same conviction, I said goodbye to my parents after being home for a week since graduating from undergrad and was on my way. Little did I know as a Teach For America corp member in New Orleans the depth of the challenges that would lay before me.
Now, after 5 months of teaching, I’m leaving as a 23-year old with a very real image of the achievement gap, as well as a renewed committment to fighting for quality education for the rest of my life. As I return home on Saturday, I’ll have the opportunity to share my experiences with my family, peers, and associates in hopes to illustrate to them that what goes on in small-town Bridgeton, NJ is just a microcosm of what is going on across this country.
Yet, I won’t end there because that is not where the story ends. I’ll continue to tell them how my roommates and I spend every waking hour thinking of new and engaging lesson plans for our students. Also, how we spend countless hours afterschool working to bring them up to level, and how we work tirelessly with administration (who may not want to change course) to create a better learning environment. Additionally, how we strategize with other corp members on best practices for teaching.
But I won’t stop there. I’ll then go on to tell them the stories of my students and how they are learning. Also, how they come to class with white smiles grinning from ear-to-ear and run up to hug me every morning when I meet them in the school yard. Or how they draw me pictures saying, “Ms. Bunting is the best teacher in the world”, and how their potentials are a constant reminder of why, even in the face of adversity, I must press onward.
It feels great to know that my dream of quality education is becoming a reality with dedicated teachers every day. It’s not just happening in New Orleans, but all across this country. Teachers are on the front-lines for closing the achievement gap, a gap that my students in their youth do not realize and that’s one reason why I never stop fighting. I left my hometown to learn first-hand about the complexities facing children across this country in hopes that one day I’ll have the opportunity to work in a capacity to create better schooling for them all in neighborhoods that reciprocate that dream.