Data Use, Technology, and Educational Leadership


What sorts of things would you tell your 19 year old self if you could? BC does a retreat for students called Halftime that is intended to help them through the process of discernment about vocation– matching your deepest joys with the world’s needs. On the bus to the retreat center, it kept running through my mind that these young men and women were elementary school “kids” when I first began teaching. I also thought about the story for how I ended up in education, which begins in Paris and ends up (for tonight’s talk anyways) with Teach for America. In between is something called Breakthrough Collaborative, which at the time was called Summerbridge.

By elisasizzle (flickr)

My story began in Paris, because I was studying abroad at the time. Like many of the students that I’ll be working and speaking with over the next few days, I didn’t have a very good idea about what I wanted (or ought) to be doing after graduation. I only knew about Summerbridge because it was in a book on internships at the American Library in Paris. I knew I had to be Houston that summer, and this was listed as being national. All I really knew was that I was curious about teaching and that this was an opportunity for college students to work with low-income middle schoolers.

Not long after returning to the US, I was immersed in the intensity of Summerbridge (and the Houston heat). It’s hard to describe how special a day in the program can be. We taught our passions, sink or swim. It imprinted on me the incredible possibilities  that can occur among energetic, united faculties and their students. It wasn’t always easy, and there were definitely some days when we failed and when we cried and when we were exhausted, but it always felt worth it. As Mark Salisbury writes, teaching was full of delicious ambiguity. Part of vocation involves finding that place where your talents contribute to the world, even if it’s not always easy to do.

But whenever I try to explain (to me or others) why education or why Teach for America, my Summerbridge/Breakthough Collaborative experiences are the place I begin. The students I wish I’d reached. The students whose generosity and kindness had the most surprising and profound influence. The hugs and high-fives.


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This entry was posted on August 30, 2012 by and tagged , .