Don't Follow Your Dreams, Chase Them!

Ashley Kirklen is a Second Year Teaching Fellow at Eastway Middle School, Charlotte, NC

It’s that crazy time of year again for second year Teaching Fellows.  Resumes are being sent out, letters of recommendation are being sought after, and applicants are receiving acceptance letters to the universities or programs of their choice.  This time is both scary and exciting for second year Teaching Fellows.  This is the next phase in our lives (post fellowship) to follow whatever dreams we’ve harbored and are now ready to pursue!

Part of our job as educators is to encourage our students to take hold of their dreams and accomplish them using every fiber of their being.  The other part of our job is to be an example; that means living what we teach.  I remember the flack that the always humble Sir Charles Barkley caught for publicly stating that “he was no role model.”  As an educator, choosing whether or not you will be someone’s role model is not a luxury that is afforded, it comes with the territory.  In case you didn’t know, you are a role model!  Whether you work with students for 8 minutes a day or 8 hours a day, they are watching you, your life.  They are looking for someone to imitate.  Now is our time to swallow those words and internalize the beliefs that Citizen Schools strives to instill in middle school students across the country.   As I embark on the next phase of my life, as scary as it may be, I remind myself that I have a responsibility to live out what I teach to my students.  I must also act on my dreams.

Working with students has its ups and downs, but it is an overall joy to know that you have impacted a life forever.  As the 8th grade team leader, I have been preparing my students for high school, college and finding careers.  One of the most enjoyable things about my job is to be around young people that are still very much full of hope, curiosity and tenacity.   These are traits that some adults tend to lose due to the strains of life.  I love to hear the goals of this generation who have yet to be jilted by rejection, fear or doubt.  During homework time this past week (which is supposed to be quiet) I overheard one student whisper to her friend out of the blue, “hey why don’t you go to Duke with me?” and with just as much effortless assurance her friend replied, “ok.”  That was the end of the conversation.  They didn’t talk about how they would get money to go to Duke or if they would get accepted.  Watch out Blue Devils class of 2020!  At that moment I learned the lesson that even though I am the educator, they have a lot to teach me.

“Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.” Mark Twain

Past Teaching Fellows, after graduating the fellowship, have gone on to chase dreams to become lawyers, movie directors, Citizen Schools campus directors, educators and the list could go on and on.  What dreams will the Teaching Fellows class of 2012 take on, dream chasers?