The Jacksonville Public Education Fund is proud to elevate the voices of those who work directly with students. Erica Rickey, City Year Team Leader at Smart Pope Livingston Elementary shares her key takeaways from the 2016 ONE by ONE Convention.
City Year is an organization that deploys diverse team of young adults to serve full-time as mentors and role models to help keep students in school and on track to graduate. - Ale'ta Turner
As a Senior AmeriCorps Member at City Year Jacksonville, I jump at opportunities to be able to engage with other members of the community on the subject of education. I serve with City Year to be able to effect educational change, not only in my individual school, but also to extend positive change as far as possible. So when great organizations like the Jacksonville Public Education Fund host events that center around public education focused via a specific theme, that serves as an ideal opportunity to make connections and bolster our abilities to get things done. The 2016 ONE by ONE Convention was one such instance where many people, from huge names in the Jacksonville community, to average citizens like me looking to make a difference, came together to learn more about Equity in Education and the day-to-day realities of educating children in Duval County.
The convention overall was a huge success, from the cooking competition between teams of Duval’s finest culinary students to the incredible performances by the First Coast Theater Department, to the data chat with our Superintendent Dr. Vitti. Everyone was engaged and able to witness the growth of Duval’s students in many facets of their educational experience.
With that being established, the overall greatest part for me was toward the end of the day when we chose between five break-out sessions. These choices allowed us to be able to further our own learning based upon what we think is most important or interesting. The five options were spot on and ranged through a variety of key topics that should be subjects of discussion around Jacksonville’s kitchen tables. The two that I chose to attend focused upon Kindergarten Readiness and Teacher Quality/Experience. These particular breakouts encompassed topics that are near and dear to my heart, as I currently work in an elementary school and I aspire to someday become a teacher myself.
Kindergarten readiness is an essential component of a student’s overall academic success for the rest of their lives. It sets the tone for how they learn and for what knowledge they bring to the table from the beginning. It bolsters their overall confidence and competence in the classroom space, so it is something that should be greatly emphasized to parents and communities. Economically speaking, early investment yields high returns too, if that is the framing that is essential to making a connection as to why kindergarten readiness is something that should be embraced by all. Some of this seems intuitive, but all of this was part of our group’s discussion and I walked away feeling confident that this is a hot topic that deserves attention and promotion throughout our community.
Another issue that I know to be essential to a healthy and vibrant community is one of teacher quality and teacher experience. It is too often now that I come into work and hear that teachers are being cut, pay is dismal, students don’t respect teacher authority, and parents seem to make teachers their last priority. I understand that everyone is busy, and everyone is undercompensated, and there is always generational change, but the key to retaining quality teachers in our community is by giving them a quality experience as well. There is a saying that goes ‘you cannot pour from an empty cup’, and that’s especially true for teachers. A teacher cannot give their all to their students if they are never getting anything in return - they will have nothing to pour out. We cannot let teachers become depleted, especially not quality teachers, and especially not here in Duval County. Our students are our future, and if they are not getting the best they will never be able to give their best. But if the best have no incentive to be here, and we are doing nothing to change that, we cannot be upset by the direct results - unhappy and uneducated students.
I know that teachers like to be appreciated, who doesn’t? Take some time to call a teacher and thank them for spending eight plus hours every single day giving everything they have to others. Think of where you would be without some of your best teachers. Your life would surely look a lot different. This is my challenge to you, my call to action - appreciate teachers. Advocate for them. Think of them and then act upon those thoughts often, as they are one of the most important members of our entire community. Without them, we would fall into ruin, so we owe them our utmost respect and the due diligence to make sure that they receive the full community support they deserve.
Thank you teachers, for all that you do. You deserve the best and this is one of many ways I intend to live out what we discussed in our breakout group to make your experience a better one. And thank you JPEF for holding a wonderful convention that brought together people to act on a common goal and to strive with a shared purpose. Our Jacksonville community needs more meeting of its minds like this in order to continue moving forward toward its full potential.
City Year Team Leader at Smart Pope Livingston Elementary