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Here I am alone for the first time in a year-and-a-half having just dropped my daughters off for their first day of in-person school. They were filled with smiles and the typical first-day nerves, but overall delighted to finally see their peers, to connect with their teachers, and to be able to focus on their education in a school building. Today, I’m alone, but not lonely, as I’m finally getting the chance to catch up with myself.
It wasn’t that long ago that I would have been standing in a classroom myself today ready to warmly greet each and every student, but today, I’m trying to find my new role in the education of my own children and my role in my community.
I chose to become a teacher over a decade ago during my final semester while majoring in history at Flagler College. The idea struck me during my final research project on WWII orphans when I learned that some details about WWII are left out of Japan’s classrooms. Combined with a paper I wrote in a Russian history class about propaganda, the doctoring of photos, and how only certain books were allowed to be given to the public in different times, I started to realize that education is not always impartial.
In studying history, I realized that our education can be chosen for us, perspectives shaped by those nearby, but I wanted something better for my own children and for children across our country. I was accepted into a Master of Education program at a top school for that field, Vanderbilt University Peabody College of Education. After graduating, I taught for years.
However, recently, I realized I had to make a change, and I couldn’t be in a classroom anymore. I wondered how to continue helping children get a strong education. I needed a new role for myself, and I discovered that volunteering with the Parent Teacher Association was the answer.
I’m inspired to continue working towards a fair education for all because of recently reading the book ‘Educated’ by Tara Westover.
In ‘Educated,’ Tara Westover shares her journey to receive an education after being unschooled or homeschooled in an extremely conservative Mormon family with a father who was reportedly bipolar and delusional. It wasn’t until age 17, when she studied enough on her own to make it into college, that she learned how others lived.
She grew to understand the benefits of the other students’ lifestyle choices, and she even began to experiment with normalcy herself. Being educated helped her make lifesaving changes as she learned the benefits of going to doctors, being immunized, standing up to her abusive brother, and maintaining her own mental wellbeing.
She ended the book by sharing her newfound perspective that education is a journey to find selfhood. She spent years learning, even attaining a Ph.D in history from Cambridge because she wanted to study different perspectives. Her perspective had been so different from others her whole life.
Understanding her trauma was inspirational especially at this time when many students have been out of the classroom. Some haven’t been logging in, and some don’t feel they’ve had a real connection with their school in a long time. Some students have only had their own families to help form their perspectives on the world around them. While that might be fine for some students from supportive and healthy families, it may not have been so good for others.
This is why I found my new role as a PTA parent. So far, being able to volunteer at events has given me the opportunity to help make children feel more comfortable as they transition back into the classroom. Having one more person to greet them, to help them feel comfortable among their peers, and to remind them that school is fun matters.
Whether I’m able to ask a food truck for a new snow cone when a child’s falls, greet a tearful kindergartener, or remind two acquaintances that they might enjoy catching up, each of these little gestures can be very meaningful during these first weeks of school.
You can join your local PTA to find a role that fits well for you. Whether you are able to give time or help in other ways, it is certainly appreciated. Joining the PTA can build a school community that helps every child enjoy their learning environment more each day.
Are you involved with your PTA?
Share why you chose to get involved with your local PTA below in the comments.