In today’s world, we have a lot to worry about, so why should you be concerned about the current state of education if you don’t have school-age children?
The answer is simple: Today’s kids are tomorrow’s leaders. They are your future mayor, your governor, your city or tribal council, and your state and national legislators who will decide the laws that will govern the rest of your life. Their education today determines your quality of life.
Everything we do as adults is built on the foundation of our education. From this perspective, the state of our education seems a lot more important and urgent. To make matters worse, we’re suffering a teacher shortage. This shortage is not just for specific subjects or grades, but also for diverse teachers. With 82% of educators identifying as white and 53% of students identifying as people of color, this teacher crisis becomes even more critical. This shortage can be seen as the equivalent of a five-alarm fire. To put out that fire, we need everyone on board.
Some people are stepping up. Last week, more than 75 organizations signed a coalition letter calling for a more diverse teacher population. This effort was led by the Association of American Educators Foundation and the United Negro College Fund. I am excited and energized about the synergy this coalition letter is creating.
As a person of proud Native American descent, a mother, a legal advocate, and the recipient of a master’s degree and several academic honors, I have stepped up as well and have re-enrolled in school to earn my teaching certification. I plan to graduate in spring 2020 with a master’s degree in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) and will begin my teaching career.
We must find ways to get more highly qualified people, especially those who identify as people of color, into the classroom. We need scholarships for traditional and alternative paths to teacher licensing, a living wage for preservice and current educators, and culturally relevant curriculum. We must encourage students who show promise to pursue an education career and actively change the negative rhetoric around our profession.
Individuals who look like their students are more likely to make deeper connections with their students and have a more profound impact. There is no substitution. According to U.S. Department of Education research, students flourish when they have educators who look like them and ALL students benefit from having more diverse educators. Additionally, creating these more authentic and positive experiences for students with educators and their schools facilitates learning and inspires a new generation of teachers.
Nothing worth having comes easily or cheaply, and the world only changes when we work together. I challenge each of you reading this to find a way to personally give back to the classroom, by urging legislators to provide more funding for preservice educators, encouraging young people in your life to go into teaching, or, even, entering the teaching profession with me.
Your future depends on it.
Diana Schooling is a member of numerous professional associations, societies and boards, a graduate of University of Oklahoma College of Law, and holds a Master of Education in Curriculum & Instruction degree from Concordia University – Portland. She is a resident of Seattle.