I’ve never wanted to be a teacher.

I don’t particularly like kids. I don’t like people, and kids are simply uncensored versions of us. All our ugliness, selfishness, meanness and obstinance with no filter, no politeness, no propriety. All those things that make it possible for us to be around each other without killing everyone outright.

I’m currently attending school to become a librarian. (I know, right?) My plans included getting my teaching credentials and teaching my way through grad school. Teaching was simply a way to lighten the financial load while I was pursuing my doctorate.

As some of you may know, I switched schools this semester. I moved from a suburban to an urban setting and my current school, as well as the subjects I am taking, touches on certain subjects having to do with urban issues. These issues include but are not limited to race and ethnicity, economic inequality, reduced opportunities and undereducation present in certain urban areas. These are subjects I was not entirely unfamiliar with, but nothing that I have ever experienced, having grown up in a predominantly upper-middle class white area.

I have also made a lot of friends at my new school. Some of my friends have come from very limited opportunity as well as many roadblocks, yet have preservered despite numerous points of opposition. I have repeatedly been impressed by the intelligence, hard work, ambition and talent among populations that have endured and continue to endure neglect, under-funding and blatant oppressive action perpetrated by both government and society.

Yet a question… The Question lingers in my mind.

This Question nags and pricks me as my friends go along their every day lives, working and studying and caring for their families. They are not impressed by themselves the way that I am. They carry an attitude of, “Of course I did… what was my other option? I didn’t want the alternative for myself. I’ve seen the consequences of inaction… and so I acted.” However, I have seen the other side. I have seen those with every opportunity at their disposal, throw away those opportunities. I have been one of those.

That Question needs answered, The Question that remains at the forefront of my mind.

How incredible the achievements if my friends had received an equal education? If the roadblocks had been lessened or removed? If their success had been considered by society the norm rather than the exception? How much could they have accomplished had they not had to battle everyday to simply stay afloat?

And how many amazing minds and glaring potential has been drowned in this fretful sea? How many have been caught in the crossfire?

Have we lost the next Einstein? Did we miss out on another Tesla, another Margret Thatcher, or another Louis Pasteur only because that person grew up in Watts, Compton or East LA, and the pressure was too much to bear? The schools they attended were underfunded, the neighborhood too dangerous to venture out into, and not much was expected of them anyway. We will never see what those minds were capable of had they been nurtured and allowed to grow, that wealth is lost to the world forever. Those for whom this is a factor will live very different lives than if they had been guided down a path of education, and the lives of their children and their children’s children are also deeply affected. By not offering everyone equal opportunities to learn and progress, we are taking part in shaping yet another generation shrouded in untapped potential.

I am currently being offered a spot in the comprehensive Urban Teacher Fellowship Program here in Los Angeles. I had never had any aspirations of becoming a teacher, although I already had plans of attaining my credentials. I am going to participate in the program, regardless of the career path I ultimately choose.

But I know myself. I know that the more I learn about these subjects, the more I am obligated within myself to work with those who struggle to resolve the issues standing in the way of people and progress. It is fair and right.

Sometimes I wonder why my life has taken certain paths. Why, with a silver spoon in my mouth, I chose instead to take a path down homelessness, drug abuse, domestic violence and poverty? And if I believe in any destiny at all, I have to believe I experienced those things so that I could use my talents to help others find the strength to escape those harsh realities.

I will not be able to achieve that in the dusty corners of a research library, no matter how much beautiful information lies within those hallowed walls.

I can only achieve this within the classroom.

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