As I began preparing to become a teacher, I truly thought that I would graduate from college and take a job at the little elementary school in my small hometown where I had lived my whole life. I was preparing for my daughter to start kindergarten at that school and really dreamed that my first classroom would be right down the hall. Well…my classroom was down the hall from her kindergarten class, however, in a city a bazillion times bigger than my hometown and 1000 miles away!
I grew up and lived in a town with about 25,000 people. Most of the community was white, middle class families. We would see some diversity every once in a while, but almost everyone looked the same and lived the same. When I took my first teaching job in Houston, Texas, this was not the case. Not only were there about 4 million people in Houston in the mid-90s, but Houston (like most large cities) was very diverse. And schools were as diverse. I can honestly say, my college education and teacher preparation courses did not really teach me how to work with children who did not look like me.
I found this to be a welcomed challenge. I began learning about working in high-poverty areas. I learned how to support and teach students who spoke a language other than English. I found joy in helping children who may not have had families who valued education, learn that education is a bridge to a successful future. And I learned that working in at-risk, high-poverty areas was my niche. This was my place to sparkle!
As you begin teaching or continue on your educational journey, consider your niche. Every type of community will have its own set of challenges. Research the needs of the type of school you will work in and be ready for those challenges! Find where your passion lies and then be proud of the work you do for your community! I have had the opportunity to meet and know many educators across the United States and have seen people do amazing things in all types of areas! It makes me excited to see when educators find their niche and do the work that will continue to change the world!
Go forth and sparkle, my friends!