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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

11/27/23 pdf
November 27, 2023

A call to the classroom: Why UMass Boston students should consider teaching

When I think about my time at the University of Massachusetts Boston, I think about a whirlwind of incredible experiences: my senior thesis, innovative growth and expansion, discounted Red Sox tickets, and walking the harbor with my dog. But I also think about that gnawing question that always lurked: What in the world am I going to do after I leave here?

Although that question is the quickest way to get any senior’s heart pounding and palms sweating, I actually have several ways I could answer it. I could look for a job in the bio-tech industry; I could stop toying with the idea and just apply to M.D. or Ph.D. programs; I could join the military as an officer. I have choices.

But the question of what I could do after graduation actually has a second part – what should I do? And as I turn each choice over in my head, none of them feel quite right.

The truth is, as a first-generation college graduate I now have access to opportunities that many kids who grew up like me don’t. Often, I think of my neighborhood friends whose ambitions were just as great as mine and whose intelligence was often greater, who are struggling with addiction, raising children on part-time jobs, or even sitting in jail. As I do, I recognize that if just a few things were different in my own life — different mentors, a different set of community resources, a different teacher — I might not be a UMass student.

This is the reality for families like mine in the Greater Boston area, but it’s not unique to us. Too many kids growing up in diverse communities across the country lack the opportunity to imagine a college-bound future for themselves. Fewer than six percent of students in our lowest-income communities will graduate from college by the time they’re 25. This disparity in no way reflects kids’ capabilities — it’s a result of deeply entrenched systems of oppression that have denied low-income kids equal access to opportunity for decades.

I applied to Teach For America because I know firsthand what it feels like to wonder if a life of success is even possible. Although I am not as privileged as most, I still recognize that I am more privileged than many. This leaves me with a burning desire to make a difference. Today, I have a means of transportation, money for food, and access to a neuroscience lab to complete an honors thesis. I have all these things not because I’m exclusively entitled to them but because people in my life helped me get them — from a wonderful girlfriend who opened up her home to me and a set of mentors who have fought for me, cheered me on, and believed in my potential. When I think about what I can and should do with my privilege, paying this forward is the answer that fits.

I didn’t decide to teach because I think I’m going to be a hero. This work will be incredibly challenging and humbling, and I will have to push myself harder than I ever have to give my students the education they deserve. I will need to work in close partnership with the parents, teachers, and community members who have been working towards justice and equity long before I arrived.

But I don’t want a job that lets me turn a blind eye to the injustice kids face every day. I want one that forces me to look injustice in the face and fight it with all my heart. I want one that holds me accountable for the injustices that plague our communities — because, although I did not create them, I’d still bear responsibility if I chose not to address them.

As I become a Teach For America corps member after graduation, I’ll be joining a network of more than 47,000 people working relentlessly to make access to opportunities equitable. It’s a network of leaders vastly diverse in background and experience working across sectors to create change. But we are all united around the fundamental belief that a quality education is not a privilege — it is a right. We can fight to ensure all students get to enjoy that right. As you think about what in the world you’re going to do after you leave here, I hope you’ll join us.

Sean Glennon is a class of 2015 UMass transfer student majoring in Biology. He is also the current treasurer of TriBeta, a chemistry tutor, and spends his free time training his Siberian husky, Peter.