Most people I meet have a hard time understanding why I would leave my teaching job and move all the way across the country to join AmeriCorps. And while I have just as hard of a time explaining it, it’s definitely not because I disliked my job or career choice. After four years of teaching, I think I just needed a break. There’s a charter school in New York that requires teachers take sabbaticals after five consecutive years of teaching. They find the required leave crucial in their efforts to combat the very real phenomenon of teacher burnout. It also provides teachers with the opportunity to explore a part of themselves outside of teaching, develop new views and skillsets, and re-energize. This year of service has provided me with just that. But that’s not the only reason why I serve.
Labor leader and civil rights activist Cesar Chavez once said, “To be man is to suffer for others.” I have taken it upon myself to re-word that as, “To be human is to sacrifice for others.” In her book The Power of Their Ideas Educator Deborah Meier writes, “Ideas, the ways we organize knowledge, are the medium of exchange in democratic life, just as money is in the marketplace.” In underserved communities with limited resources, service is a crucial vehicle for that free-flowing exchange of ideas and knowledge. During this year of service, I have met a number of people with that same mind set. Great leaders have a passion to serve. I’ve benefited greatly this service year from great leadership.
Service is a measure of true Democracy. It’s reciprocity is invaluable.