I have been in education for a long time and as my calling and career, I have had the honor of serving as a Teacher, Math Specialist, Assistant Principal, Principal Consultant for the Colorado Department of Education, Principal and now a Human Resources Director. I have always worked in urban school districts with a large minority population. As a Mexican-American woman I have always believed that education is the key to ensuring Equity and Excellence for all students. As you enter the field of education you should know the following:
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, schools are becoming more racially and economically diverse. Public schools are now more likely to have Black and Brown students enrolled as the majority of the population instead of the minority.
As a nation we are going to have to learn to discuss race in a constructive manner. Whether as a White or a person of color the achievement or opportunity gap is real and we cannot address it without discussing how race impacts the experiences of students in our schools. The future of our country depends on our ability to educate Black and Brown students. We must all engage in conversations about race and the impact on achievement and the educational experience of our students.
The only constant in education is change. In order to be successful in education you will need to model what you expect from your students-Learning. Our public school systems face a variety of challenges: declining budgets, an achievement/opportunity gap for students of color, increased public scrutiny and public policy that impacts the day to day operations of teaching and learning. The education career is not for the faint of heart and it is not for you if you don’t have or develop grit and perseverance.
To be successful with students of color we must as educators: believe that all students can achieve; learn about our students as individuals and all of the strengths they bring to the classroom; adapt our classrooms and schools to meet the needs of our students instead of expecting our students to fit into the our schooling experiences; expect more from our students so that they are able to think critically at a very early age; and most importantly continue to adapt our practices.
All educators must be teachers of reading and writing and English Learners. As a former high school principal I know that typically a science teacher is expected to be a master of their content area. While this is still important ALL teachers must be able to make sure students are literate in scientific reading and writing and critical thinking. Whatever you teach you must also be able to incorporate reading and writing and your content area. School districts continue to struggle to fill the need for high quality candidates in the following categories: Special Education, English Language Development, Math, Science, and Speech Pathologists. It is a great idea for any teacher to have a strong literacy, Special Education and English Language Development background.
Education is a calling and a tremendous responsibility. As we become more diverse we must improve our ability to educate ALL of our students. In order to adapt to our constantly changing world we must continue to adapt our teaching practices while engaging in a process of continuous learning. This profession is meant for the glass half full people who truly believe in every student and are committed to doing whatever it takes to meet the needs of students. We must commit to better prepare students for postsecondary education by meeting students’ needs and not expecting students to conform to our notion of a classroom or our educational experiences. We must support ALL students by entering the education field with a strong understanding of Special Education, English Language Development, and literacy across the content areas.
Marisol Enriquez, Ph.D.
Human Resources Director
Adams County School District 14
Commerce City, Colorado
The opinions expressed in Career Corner 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.