I remember at the beginning of the school year I sat in a room full of my future classmates at the HGSE Students of Color Orientation, and I asked the following question: “How many of you were classroom teachers prior to coming to HGSE?” About 75% of the hands went up. Then I followed up with, “How many of you plan on returning to the classroom after graduating from HGSE?” I looked around the room. Most hands were now down.
As someone who has always planned on returning back to the K-12 classroom, I was suddenly unsure. Why were all my peers planning to abandon their roles as teachers? Was there perhaps a path that was better?
So throughout the first semester I explored the world of education. I took classes at the law school, at the school of public health. I took classes at HGSE in college student affairs and higher education admissions policy. I loved them all. In fact, I was even convinced that I, too, may decide to pursue a career outside K-12 teaching that I originally was so passionate about. Perhaps there was something better for me. But I had come to HGSE with a purpose–to better myself as a teacher, and to help instill change in our K-12 educational system today by working from inside the classroom.
Everything changed for me during second semester. Per the recommendation of my advisor, I sat in on Kitty Boles‘ pitch for her course, T-131 Teachers, Leadership, and Power: School Reform from the Classroom, and my uncertainty about the future immediately disappeared. Kitty, a passionate teacher for over 30 years, gave me that sense of hope and push to return to the classroom. It was then that I understood the transformative power that the right course could inspire. The future of the teaching profession rests with us as teachers.
As teachers, we must advocate for ourselves and the teaching profession. So my plea to all HGSE students, current and future, is this: if you are a teacher (or are thinking about being a teacher), take the opportunity to explore every avenue that HGSE has to offer, but don’t forget what brought you here. Stay grounded in your passion for educational transformation and learn all you can so you bring change back to the classroom. We must be the change we wish to see! The rest of us teachers and the entire teaching profession needs YOU!
Pam Liu is a beer-loving yogi who works as a high school math teacher and travels the world on the side. She’s currently a Master’s candidate in the Special Studies program.