I grew up in Richardson, TX, a city north of Dallas, and attended a public school that I started walking to with my friends when I was in second grade. It was a school embedded into the community, with sufficient resources, and a friendly staff. Around 3rd grade, my parents started talking about placing me in a private school. When I asked them why, they explained that the school’s emphasis on standardized testing, mandated by the state of Texas, was diluting my education—when I complete assignments early I filed paperwork and stapled handouts for teachers, and during free reading time I was often asked to read with students who were struggling. While I denied their criticisms of my beloved elementary school, I couldn’t help but notice the faults and flaws that abounded within the classroom. While ultimately I ended up at a private, co-ed school in Dallas, their comments and my vicarious experience of public school from my childhood friends inspired me to think critically about education: Why do some students get a better education than others? How do you quantify student success? What does critically thinking look like?
During my first year at Bowdoin, I decided to take Contemporary American Education in hope for some answers to these tough questions. However, after a few weeks of intense course readings and dynamic discussions, I found myself with more questions than answers! I quickly discovered the layers of complexity that lie beneath the surface of American education and was enthralled by the systems of inequality, that contribute to the challenges of public education, as well as the hard work of teachers and schools that point towards the promise that lies within schools. The following semester, I enrolled in Educating All Students and spent 4 hours a week working with a middle school student at Brunswick Junior High. A bright-eyed, seventh grade girl, she embodied the dichotomies and challenges we read about and discussed in class. My relationship with her enriched and complicated my understanding of how middle schoolers learn and view themselves in the classroom.
With a couple semesters of education under my belt, a professor of mine encouraged me to pursue a summer internship in the education field. With her support and counsel, I spent the summer before my junior year working as an Education Policy Research Intern at the Children’s Defense Fund in Washington D.C. During my internship, I attended hearings on Capitol Hill, lobbied for early childhood education legislation, and researched important issues surrounding school equity. My research focused predominantly on disproportionality in school discipline, disparities in school funding, and the implication of Common Core for poor children and children of color. This experience served as the perfect springboard into Doris Santoro’s Urban Education course, in which I’m currently enrolled.
While I do not know what the future holds, I know it must touch education in some way. I hope to teach, work on education policy, or act as a social worker in schools. Although schools are not sufficient to solve for systemic inequality, they are necessary. Through my coursework and conversations with education professors, I’ve come to learn what the state of education in the U.S. looks like, as well as imagine what it could be.