I was only 23 years old when I got my first teaching job. I was going to be teaching a Head Start preschool class in a very poor rural section of Virginia. My plan was to teach in an inner-city school but plans changed and I landed in the same type of position just a vastly different setting. Same economic conditions, same family problems and challenges but just out in the country.
I was ready to change these kids and bring hope. After all, I had a degree. I was required to teach these kids not just academics but social skills like having them brush their teeth, eat properly, and use their manners. My role was more of a parent than a teacher. I even had to do home visits where I was required to tell parents how properly to raise their kids. Yes, this 23 year old naïve adult, without yet having any children of her own, was telling parents how to raise their kids. My only qualification was I had a degree.
I laugh now at this whole scenario that played out in my life. I wonder what some of those parents thought of me. I had no idea what they were going through and the challenges that they faced. Many of these families were on welfare for a number of reasons and trying to make ends meet. I was telling them how important it was to properly feed their children and that they get adequate rest. See I bought into the whole notion that I was more qualified because I had a degree. Somehow I knew more than these parents because I went to a four year college and received a slip of paper.
I notice this being played out in our society all the time. Somehow we have brainwashed ourselves into thinking education keeps us a step ahead of others. Education is important that is a fact. However for me, my degree was just a stepping stone. I needed experience in the teaching field. Just raising my own children has taught me how naïve I was about those families I was trying to help. I was never a step above them because of my education.
I realize now that my role as a teacher is to guide not to stand up on some invisible pulpit and command some sort of presence in what is right to do. Our society seems to be taking too much pride in education and less in experience. I have no right to tell a parent what their child needs to eat or how they should raise their child. My job is to give them the tools and let them make their choice for their life and family. Even now with more experience from raising my own kids and teaching in a classroom, I am still learning how to educate my own children as well as guide others. My degree was not the end of some finish line. It was merely the beginning of understanding how to be a teacher.
Our education and government systems are starting to control our students and families. The aspect of guiding is being lost in some elite notion that we know more than others. Merriam-Webster dictionary defines education as; the action or process of educating or being educated; a stage of such a process. I would have been a better Head Start teacher had I known that educating is a process of teacher, child and parent learning all together. Anyone using education to control is just naïve.