I grew up in Loudoun County Virginia, also known as one of the richest counties in America.
For as long as I can remember I have wanted to be a teacher. I tutored in high school and even took a Teachers Cadet course my senior year of high school. For the most part, it is the only career I could honestly see myself doing. I was attending Virginia Tech in the fall and after I graduated I would move back into the home I grew up and spend my life teaching in Loudoun.
My first year of school went well, my goals stayed pretty much the same. I started applying for jobs near me working with kids. After many applications and interviews, I was hired as the Summer Programs Coordinator one county over.
The town I worked in was about forty five minutes from my home. It was such a great opportunity that the commute was worth it, and I had actually lived there for about two years when I was very young so I thought it would be cool to come back and work there for a few summers. I was told that my job was to make PE lesson plans for day care kids for the summer. This was very exciting for me because I wanted to teach and getting to make all these fun summer lesson plans and then teach them was a dream for me. I spent the first month of the job doing all this research and making all these cute little themed activities.
I had guest speakers planned, I had met my staff, everything was organized to a T and I was beyond excited for the following Monday when I would get to meet my kids for the summer and start my program.
I get to the school at 8:45; the kids are supposed to be there at nine. I have all my supplies out and ready, the other counselors are there and we are just waiting for the daycare to show up. Well they did show up but approximately an hour after they were scheduled to come. And they make an entrance. We have kids running around bouncing off the walls and teachers screaming. Finally they all sit down and I introduce myself and try to explain the first game. The kids did not want any part of that game. It was too complicated for the kindergardeners and too boring for the fifth graders. Luckily my staff has worked with these kids in the past and help me mediate between us and find better games for them to play. Those were the longest two hours though and I’m pretty sure I went home and cried that night.
After a similar first week I realized that my lesson plans would have to change. All the kids wanted to do was play basketball and sharks and minnows. So I made some adjustments and things got better in terms of that. But then I began to notice some serious behavioral issues.
I think it was my second or third week when I had to deal with my first (of many fights). These kids had some serious anger issues that continued all through the summer. They would get too into the games and storm off or worse attack one another. This job was completely wearing me down. I came home and went to bed at eight pm because of how emotionally exhausted I was. I had so many kids who just hated me and everything I represented.
Especially that most of them were foster kids or came from some sort family background that was less than spectacular. As the days continued on I really got to know the kids better and my perspective started to change. The first thing I noticed about them was that they were very protective of each other. These kids were a family to each other and when they weren’t fighting each other, they were fighting others in defense of each other. The kids may seem to hate me or my staff but you can tell they have a lot of love to give by the way they interact.
The kids really had an issue about things being equal between each other and they would often complain if something was unfair. We worked really hard to reiterate that we were doing the best we can to maintain equality, but there was only so much to be done. I had one child who would completely storm to the top of the bleachers if things were unfair.
This was obviously less than fun to deal with, but as I continued working I began to realize that maybe things weren’t so even for them in their other aspects of life. This big realization really opened my eyes to these children.
As opposed to dreading my job in the mornings, I anticipated it. I loved coming in the morning and working with the kids. Because I fell in love with each and every one of them despite their struggles. Obviously we still had fights, we still had temper tantrums and we struggled to find games to that satisfied the masses.
But overall the summer took a complete turn in the beginning of July. My absolute favorite week of the summer was when we took the kids to the roller rink for a week. A very small percentage of these kids had ever done it and there was a lot of falling and some giving up.
They wanted to impress my staff as the week went on. And the progress they made was amazing. I cannot even tell you how proud I was of those kids by the end of the week. You would never have known by looking at them Friday that their first time on skates was that Monday. These kids were destined for great things and I loved that I got to be a part of it.
The end of the summer eventually rolled around, I was returning to Tech that weekend. It was my last day and I’ll be honest, I cried when I left. The kids who absolutely hated me at the beginning of summer actually hugged me before I left. I had fallen in love with these kids, even more so for the tough times they had faced. Coming back to school I realized that I wanted to do more. I want to spend my life working with kids like this. Kids who need a little support in their back corner.
Because of that, I know I will never return to Loudoun County to teach. There are so many places that need people to care for the underdogs or the ones who often get cast aside. My real dream is to travel to Africa and teach to children there.
But if that never happens I know I will be able to stay in Southwest Virginia or any other struggling county and be a part of the change. Education is so important and there are so many students not getting the kind they deserve and I want to decrease that number one by one.