“I don’t think much of a man who is not wiser today than he was yesterday.” ~Abraham Lincoln
Life is a learning experience – or at least it should be. Each and every day we meet new people, share new experiences, and learn new things about ourselves and the world around us. Those who are inquisitive and curious are constantly seeking new knowledge and, we can hope, sharing their knowledge with the people around them.
On a more pragmatic level, it is the curious and inquisitive students who achieve success. For instance, this year C2 Education sent 12 students to Harvard. When we interviewed these students during our annual awards ceremony, they all had one trait in common: Each and every one of them displayed an innate curiosity and passion for new information and experiences. Because of their desire for new knowledge, we know that these students will go far in life.
But learning and teaching are not activities that are isolated to the classroom, and yet classroom learning builds the foundation that all other life lessons rest upon. In order to create the inquisitive minds that will forever seek new information, we must first create a classroom setting that encourages curiosity and learning while imparting a strong foundation of knowledge.
Unfortunately, our current education system seems to be failing at these tasks. The most recent results of the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), a test which compares students from 65 countries, have caused a panic in the education field. Far from topping the charts, American students are barely average by international standards:
- The United States ranked 17th out of 65 participating countries on the PISA tests.
- In mathematics, 23 countries had higher average scores than the United States.
- U.S. students’ scores were on par with the international average in both reading and science, and below the international average in math.
These results seem scary – after all, how can America compete globally if our students are not up to par?
The good news is that while America’s average scores were lower than the average scores for students in many other countries, the raw numbers are far more comforting: The United States still produces more outstanding students than any other country. Our best and brightest are numerous, and this offers hope for the future.
The bad news is that our best and brightest too often misuse their talents. As we noted in a previous article, even our most brilliant scientists and mathematicians have succumbed to the lure of Wall Street. The most brilliant minds in America have the power to create a better world, but they are using their power to create exotic investment tools instead. If we are to encourage the best and brightest of our students to help improve our communities and our country, then we must begin in the classroom.
Great teachers hold the power to inspire and encourage dreams. Great teachers undertake this mission despite lower than average pay and attack ads from political groups. Great teachers are great teachers because they are willing to sacrifice a more lucrative gig on Wall Street in favor of a more rewarding gig in the classroom. We need great teachers if we are to be a great country.
It is our hope that those students with a great passion for knowledge and learning will use their skills for the betterment of our communities. Whether that means entering politics to change policy, entering the fields of science and math to create new and better technologies, entering the field of medicine to discover cures, or entering the field of education to inspire new generations, our most brilliant students should be encouraged to cling to their idealism through every challenge and obstacle.
If you have a child who is passionate about teaching others, we urge you to encourage that passion. While being a teacher may not be the most glamorous or prestigious position, teachers are invaluable to our society and are uniquely placed to help shape our future. For those students with a passion for sharing knowledge, we have compiled a sampling of some of the extracurricular opportunities available to them.
The Future Educator’s Association: This international student organization, sponsored by Phi Delta Kappa, is designed to support young people interested in education-oriented careers. Joining the FEA offers students a chance for:
- leadership positions
- joining the FEA Honors Society
- community service projects
- state, regional, and international conferences
Students interested in joining FEA should look for a local chapter to join. If a local chapter does not yet exist, then students have the perfect opportunity to take a leadership role by founding a new FEA chapter!
Summer Camp Teachers: One way to earn money and/or community service hours while also pursuing an education career is by seeking a summer job as a camp counselor. Summer camps across the country, including both day camps and sleep-away camps, employ high school students as camp counselors. As a camp counselor, students not only gain valuable leadership experience, but they also learn to interact with children, take on the role of an educator, and shoulder new responsibilities.
Individual Tutoring: Many bright high school students volunteer their services as a tutor through their church or school. This is an excellent decision for many reasons. Volunteering tutoring services shows a dedication to both community service and education, an attractive quality in any college applicant. Moreover, such an experience allows a student to become more familiar and comfortable with being in the role of an educator.
National Honors Society Tutoring: Many chapters of the NHS offer free tutoring to fellow students as a way to earn community service hours. If this is not something that your school’s NHS chapter does, consider suggesting such a project.
Volunteer: C2 Education centers will often accept student volunteers, particularly during the busy summer months. Volunteers may be asked to help with the organization and clerical work that goes into running an education center, or they may be asked to proctor tests to fellow students. C2 Education also encourages students to get involved in local community service projects. For example, C2 students have played a crucial role in the success of the annual Everything Jersey City Festival for several years. Volunteer experiences can not only help to strengthen a college admissions application, but also provide important life experiences and unique educational opportunities. Consider volunteering with your local church, at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter, at an animal shelter or humane society, or with your local school or community center. For more volunteer opportunities, look at www.serve.gov, a government website listing hundreds of volunteer opportunities nationwide.