By | Aaralyn Allin-Zayas
I have always grappled with the idea of becoming a teacher, especially with my zeal for learning and helping youth navigate and discover their passions and interests. The notion that I could play a role in helping youth find their purpose and support them through developing a roadmap to get there has always meant something very personal and profound to me. However, despite my immense passion, I am very reluctant to pursue education as a career. My academic journey thus far as a student has been riddled with teacher strikes over pay disparities, accompanied by a severe lack of representation among educators. These factors combined, entering education as an educator of color can feel very daunting. With a lack of representation and, consequently, a lack of community in education, the pressure to provide community and be the “perfect” role model for students of color also adds to the intimidation of entering the field of education. To promote long-term teacher retention, it is crucial that students are able to see themselves consistently represented in schools.
Perhaps the most intimidating aspect that has discouraged me from pursuing a career in education is the pressure of what it would mean to be one of the only teachers of color in a school. As a current student of color, I know what it is like to be a student in a system that does not prioritize you. Because of my experience, it can often feel like there is a moral obligation to go the additional mile to provide the level of care that I did not receive in my schooling experience. The weight of this duty to protect BIPOC students, in addition to the already very mentally taxing demands of teaching, seems daunting and overwhelming. This additional responsibility often leads educators of color to experience exhaustion and fatigue, sometimes pushing them out of education altogether.
Furthermore, when tackling the issue of teacher retention, student comfort and educator comfort must be equally prioritized. Students of color are often systemically disadvantaged within the education system. Much of the curriculum, including standardized tests, are intended to cater to the “average” student, or the white student, placing an invisible workload on students of color; it often feels like we must go above and beyond to be the same. In such a setting, it can be difficult for students of color to want to return to that same system, whether that be at a college, a graduate program, or as an educator. To effectively attract and retain BIPOC educators, students of color must first feel safe and positive about their own education.
In closing, the cornerstone to effectively addressing the issue of teacher retention begins not just with providing resources and comfort to educators but also to students; both are equally essential. By dismantling oppression within the education system, we open the door to an even wider scope of possibilities for students of color, paving the way for an academic environment that attracts and retains BIPOC educators. My passion and love for teaching are, in part, fueled by the notion that education can be incredibly transformative when students are offered the empowerment and belonging that they deserve. With a commitment from all fronts, we have the ability to reimagine schooling in a way that is equitable and fosters an environment where students of color feel safe and would feel safe returning to as educators.
Aaralyn Allin-Zayas is a junior at Cherokee Trail High School with an immense passion for advocacy, education, and policy.