Teachers have an impact on students that reaches far beyond their coursework and day-to-day classroom activities. It’s an influence that carries on not only to a student’s home life, but through their entire life. As Teacher Appreciation Week continues (#ThankATeacher), Megan Austin, a 7th Grade Global Studies Teacher at Des Moines’ Brody Middle School, discusses how she uses that power to help students envision their educational goals from an early age so that they can establish a plan and act upon those goals as they progress through life. Brody Middle is one of the schools participating in GEAR UP Iowa, Iowa College Aid’s initiative aimed at encouraging a college-going mentality starting at 7th grade and progressing through the first year of college.
College or other post-secondary training is the door that opens up to opportunity. Our students come from a multitude of family backgrounds and values. Some of them haven’t seen anyone they know go to college or hold a consistent job. For others, their college educated parents simply have the expectation that choosing the college is the step you take in high school. The gaps between the haves and the have-nots grows with every generation. It is our job, our professional duty as teachers, to stand in the gap and say, “picture yourself here.” Football players visualize their plays, their passes, the defensive obstacles, the catch and the race to the goal line before their cleats hit the grass. If I have done my job, our students will leave middle school visualizing themselves stepping out of high school and into a new post-secondary journey. I was thrilled to tell my students about the GEAR UP program because I could add to my statement: “…and here is how we’ll help get you there.” Middle school is when they’re trying out identities, putting on various faces to determine who they are, independent of their parents. I simply want to help them expand their possibilities.