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Education Opinion

Not a teacher? Not a problem. It takes a village. And you’re in the village.

By Jessica Shyu — April 30, 2008 2 min read

As an eduholic, I obsess over education and I’m angry about the achievement gap. And when I’m obsessed over something I’m angry about (imagine ex-boyfriends, people who don’t use their turn signals, and the achievement gap) I tend to become more emotional and less logical. (Imagine vengeful emails, excessive honking, and getting angry at anyone who isn’t a teacher .)

There was a time (and sometimes there still is) when I feel holier than thou and act as if anyone who doesn’t dedicate their life and paycheck to closing the education gap only makes it wider. It’s easy to feel all alone in this big, wide capitalistic reality. There have been times when I felt a tinge of martyrdom for my decision to work in education when my friends have chosen more lucrative careers as i-bankers, lawyers and doctors. Can you believe it? Doctors save lives and I dare feel like a martyr?!

As an obsessive and angry person when it comes to the achievement gap, I’ve learned to check my biases frequently so I don’t say stupid things like above. But more importantly, I’ve learned to check my biases about people not in the business of education because getting them in on this mission is the only way the achievement gap can close on such a broad scale. I know that great classroom teaching is the cornerstone to closing the gap, but I also know that every single person in the village has a responsibility and the tools to close the gap, whether they’re a teacher, a nurse or an i-banker. The bad news is that a whole lot of people still don’t believe that it’s their problem or that all children can learn or that they as non-traditional educators can do anything to help. The good news is that I am confident we all know people out there who are already doing it.

Need proof or just a pick-me-up to counteract your obsessiveness and anger over the state of society? Poets, editors and playwrights in New York City are closing the gap outside of schools by doubling as mentors to girls from disadvantaged backgrounds to help develop them as writers and leaders.

In the after-school scene at a Florida high school where “just graduate” is more heavily emphasized than “go to college,” a group of students are changing their futures by designing a prep course and teaching each other. The founder of this after-school group? Sixteen-year-old junior William Scott who didn’t allow his age and lack of teacher training keep him from having a hand in closing the achievement gap.

And let’s not forget about the people who are closing the gap by getting kids to school safely to even start learning. After 32 school-age children in Chicago were killed last year in their own neighborhoods, Deverra Beverly, a community activist, pulled together parents and community leaders to form an escort service to help protect kids crossing gang territory as they went to and from school. Ms. Beverly and the others are most likely not teachers in the traditional sense, but they’re making sure we’re not alone in closing the achievement gap.

The opinions expressed in New Terrain are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.