Education is hard. My experience growing up and then graduating from our public school system was transformative, piquing my interest in education as a career. During my undergrad, I spent a lot of my time volunteering in middle school classrooms and mentoring middle school and high school students, growing my curiosity about what it might look like to be an educator. Then, after graduating, I went back to a middle school to work as an educational assistant. (So much middle school, I know). That job was challenging and rewarding and I learned a lot from those students. Now I play two roles: I’m a Partnership Consultant here at Inflexion, learning about schools as a system as I work with my team to help educators better prepare students for life; and I’m also a full-time student pursuing a Master’s degree in School Counseling, where I’m learning to work inside that very system, to be one of the educators who prepares students for life. I’m juggling classes and consultant work and student-teaching… I’m getting a crash course in what it means to be a lifelong learner. But if I could boil everything I’ve learned up until this point into one sentence, it would be this:
Education is hard. I mean REALLY hard.
The second most important thing that I’ve learned? We can’t do it alone.
Last month I won an award, the Rising Alumni Award, from a local non-profit that supports the school district where I graduated from high school. I had never heard of this organization, so it definitely caught me off-guard. The award included a banquet. Talk about intimidating! In preparation for this event, I was interviewed about my experiences at Springfield High School. What was it like? Were there any particular programs or activities that you enjoyed? Did you play sports or were you part of any clubs? Was there anyone in particular at Springfield who inspired you or made your time at there special? To that last question I responded (super eloquently I should add), “I don’t know…like all of them? I mean, how many can I choose?”
I transfered to Springfield High School at the start of my junior year, and by the time I graduated, I could count eight adults in that building who, like our Executive Director Matt Coleman always says, knew my name, knew my face, and knew my story. Eight adults. When I graduated high school and went to college two hours away, my former basketball coach, assistant basketball coach, and athletic director from Springfield would regularly come to watch me play. When I was home for breaks, they let me babysit their kids. They mentored me and supported me as I navigated my first, big life transition from high school through postsecondary.
When I look at the Inflexion Approach, it tells me that when I find a school that has a clear Identity, and that identity informs their Structure, which supports student Learning, the outcome is a holistic definition of Readiness for all students. The outcome is students who are lifelong learners, who have the ability to THINK deeply about what they are doing; KNOW contextually why they learn; ACT purposefully to achieve their goals; and GO successfully through life’s transitions. Sound familiar? It does for me, because this was my experience at Springfield. So, in the same breath as I say education is hard and we can’t do it alone, I also say it’s possible, I’ve experienced it, we’ve seen it in our work with schools, and I can’t think of anything more important than to grow a generation of students who are not just college and career ready, but life ready.
Some days (most days), going back and forth between hanging out in a classroom teaching middle school students, to working in an office in downtown Portland creating material, to assisting schools wherever they are in the Inflexion Approach, to sitting in a different classroom as the student, is taxing. And it’s not simply the juggling of responsibilities — it’s the part of lifelong learning that involves learning about yourself. And one of the things I’m discovering is that there’s a huge pattern here. As my educators came alongside me, the Springfield Educational Foundation (the nonprofit that gave me that award) was coming alongside my educators. Right now, I get to sit at every seat in that equation: student, almost-educator, and support for the educator.
What I’m discovering from this vantage point, is that I love to be the educator that comes alongside students and empowers them and creates opportunity for them the way that teachers and administration at Springfield High School did for me. Someday, that’s likely where I’ll be. But right now, what a profound appreciation I’m gaining for the organizations like Inflexion, that support and mentor and guide educators, as they do the hard work of empowering kids. So, whatever role you find yourself filling in the vast world of education, we hear you when you say it’s hard. We do what we do because we know none of us can do it alone, and we believe, like you, that there are few things more important than preparing our students for the future.