To the Editor:
I write in response to a first-person essay published on your Education Week Teacher site (“Why I Plan to Stay in Teaching”). As an educator for the past seven years, I have had the privilege of working in magnet schools as well as in high-needs schools.
When I began my teaching career, I was placed in a Title I elementary school in southwest Louisiana with students who were economically disadvantaged. I walked into my first year as an alternative-teaching-certification candidate with an undergraduate degree in sociology.
In other words, I knew nothing about curriculum, pacing guides, or standards—but I knew if something didn’t change in education, more and more African-American males and females could possibly enter the criminal-justice system.
If only I knew then what I know now, maybe I would have been more prepared for what I was going to face in my classroom. On a daily basis, I encountered students who battled parent absenteeism, gangs, and lack of exposure to the world beyond their “gated” housing development.
As a first-year teacher, I probably was not the most effective, but what I did understand was love, care, and survival. I survived the school year without shedding any tears or getting verbally attacked by a parent, and I was able to equip my students with some of the skills and tools necessary to become successful and productive citizens of society.
The reason I became an educator and my rationale for continuing my path in education remain unchanged. I teach to educate children and expose them to a world outside their local communities and to guide them on which paths to choose.
Amanda E. Austin
5th Grade Math and Science Instructor
Mayfair Laboratory School
Baton Rouge, La.
A version of this article appeared in the May 11, 2016 edition of Education Week as Educator Shares Her Thoughts on Staying in the Classroom