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A Teacher’s Struggle: The Achievement Gap

school-desksI used to teach. Similar to many educators who decide to pursue a career in the teaching industry, I wanted to change the lives of my students. I wanted to empower them, inspire them, and encourage them to do something great with their lives. I had visions of a classroom full of students who were eager to learn from me and from each other, and this was almost true except for one student. Let’s call her Marcie.

Marcie was the odd one out in the classroom. She dressed and acted differently, and because of this her classmates weren’t able to connect with her. During the first few weeks of school, I watched students make an effort to include her during recess or invite her to sit with them during lunch time, but once she joined the group she felt out of place. What I knew, that her classmates didn’t, was that Marcie had an entirely different upbringing than the rest of them. The majority of my class came from middle-class families, with active parents who showed up to parent-teacher conference meetings and packed them lunch every day. Marcie, on the other hand, came to school in one of the two alternating outfits she owned and was living with her grandmother because her parents were locked up.

My co-teacher and I were very aware of her personal situation. However, despite wanting to provide her with extra attention to get her on the right track, we were unable to because of the demands from the school administration. We had to focus on the gifted students so they would score high on their exams and so the school would rank high among competing schools in the district. While I continued to hold one-on-one meetings with Marcie, I learned that she was one of the most gifted writers in the class. Nevertheless, I was unable to dedicate more than 30 minute to help her hone in on her skills and show her that she had the ability to be successful. After months of dealing with this internal struggle between helping Marcie and adhering to the administration’s policies, I decided that teaching was no longer in my heart.

This story is a mere microcosm of the education industry in America. Teachers are instructed to focus on the students who are in the top of the class and have to watch the struggling students fall further behind. Thus, the achievement gap widens and students, like Marcie, who have potential, are left in the dust. As educators, how do we fix this problem?

Once I left my job as a teacher, I knew that I needed to make a move that would allow me to help solve this cyclical problem. I eventually was introduced to a company called SchooLinks, and their mission showed me that it is possible to help both the struggling students and those at the top of their class reach their educational potential. SchooLinks connects prospective college students with universities around the world, and gives each student the attention they are unable to get from their overworked guidance counselor. As I look back on my teaching experience, I can confidently say that it is one of the most difficult jobs out there. It wears on a teacher who comes in wanting to change the world, but is stopped by higher powers. I now look forward to my future and the future of education with SchooLinks, and hope that every Marcie out there gets the attention they deserve so they can attend the college that is right for them.

[About the author: Kara Schell is passionately dedicated to helping children and believes that each student deserves an equal opportunity to be successful in school. She works in Marketing at SchooLinks and resides in Austin, TX. Image: dcJohn]

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