CCE staff and partner reflections on our collaborative work to create schools where learning is engaging and rewarding, and every student is set up for success.
The vision of CCE, “a just and equitable world in which every student is college and career ready”, is something we as staff all believe in. However, our individual paths to that shared vision - the why - varies considerably. The why of the work matters. What gets us up in the morning and keeps us going is purpose.
There are different levels of why? There’s the abstract, big picture. There’s the aspect of utility. There are moral and ethical reasons why. Then there’s the personal why, the one that sits in your gut and would eat at you if you didn’t address it. This is the one that would be appalled, enraged, or inflamed, if you didn’t pursue it. All of those whys exist in our work.
At our annual retreat, the blog team gathered to reflect on our own personal "whys".
My devotion to this work -- the reason why I feel I can “live my values” at CCE -- is tied up with a belief in social justice and equity and the role the public school project plays.
Why do I get out of bed for social justice and equity? I’m not sure I do, entirely. At least not abstractly. My commitment is more visceral. I am committed to people not disrespecting other people either directly or systemically. I have been thinking about where this drive comes from, and I think it goes back to one of my earliest memories: news reports of the bodies in Jonestown. My ten year old self was appalled that such a level of unkindness existed in the world, and it stuck.
Why do I get out of bed for schools? I think it’s the same reason I taught high school: it’s appalling to me that someone would have as bad an experience as I did when I was in high school. And I know mine was far from the worst experience it could have been. But even from my privileged position, it was a dismal experience punctuated by kindness. Being beat up??? Really???? In school?? How is that okay?
Why do I get out of bed for CCE? On the one hand, this seems like an avenue to get at some of the systemic injustices that arise out of the above. QPA is not the whole story or -- by far -- the whole solution, but it is one powerful way that the system can STOP being horrible to its students. Also, just so you don’t mistake me for All Altruism All the Time, I actually find this interesting. Really interesting.
Why do I get out of bed for my team? I love you guys. I am fascinated by our conversations. You make work a good time.
I get out of bed and come to work every morning because my young son wakes me up every day, and he both prevents an extra 10 minutes of slumber - and reminds me of the weight that educators carry. As a parent, I am responsible for my son’s growth and development - but I also entrust his educational growth to his teachers. In turn, I share the responsibility for helping to shape the world of education in which they work, for his sake and that of the many other children in their charge.
Particularly, one of the things that most inspires me to work here is the emphasis on collaborative education, significant not simply because our organization is eponymously named. Parenting, educating, leading - these are, in their 21st century iterations, still incredibly isolating endeavors. Just as educators might organize around social justice or pedagogy or workplace conditions, parents and home educators regularly build militant friends groups known as “mommy/parent clubs.” But when the function of these groups is socialization and common causes, not dialogue and improvement, then conflicts and differences become something to gloss over rather than to unpack. And it’s through this unpacking that we learn and grow. And the opportunity to learn and grow - that brings me to this work every day.
If collaboration is more of a “how,” then this is my “why”: I want every child to have the opportunity to learn in a way that responds to their unique assets and needs. Certainly, I could advocate individually as a parent for this kind of education for my son. But the reason I do this for a living is because I recognize that every child does not have this opportunity, and our tandem emphases on equity and personalization inspire me to bring my best to work and to ensure a wide and sustainable impact.
People matter to me. Every single person in this world. I carry both the blessing and curse of having the ability to feel other people’s emotions. You might think I’m being dramatic. I’m not. I am not one of those “sympathetic criers,” I can actually feel other people’s emotions. You’re happy? My heart beats a little faster. I’m about to scare and prank someone, I scare myself too. All that to say, what gets me up in the morning in this crazy world is that I care deeply about individual people and their wellbeing. The reality for me is that I cannot do this work if I can’t feel this work. I do the work that I do because I genuinely believe that if I can leave a positive ripple in just one person’s life, I can leave this world a better place than it was yesterday. If one person can feel love, security, meaning, and value because of my work, then it is all worthwhile. For me, this is hard work, and this is heart work.
All I know is how to work for mission-driven organizations, and CCE has a mission that we all truly believe in. Education is the silver bullet; it is everything. I believe everyone deserves a quality education, and we are all learners--lifelong learners. I am still learning all the time and, hopefully, teaching others (besides just teaching my daughter to put her dishes in the sink). I like being part of a team, where I can actively help others do their work better. I like to give people the words and to craft stories about the work we are doing in schools to support teachers and ensure that all students succeed. I like editing, and iterating, and making things the best they can be.
The reason I do what I do is because I believe there needs to be a strong data-based rationale for building the capacity of educators, families, and community members to meet the academic and emotional needs of all students, particularly those whom current social structures have under-served.
My work at CCE is driven by my past experience as an English teacher in Japan, where I found a passion for education. While Japan’s education system has its own share of unique problems, my time in Kyoto made me more aware of the work that needs to be done in my home country as well. Never before had I felt so driven by my work, and this motivated me to pursue it further upon returning to the U.S.
I love coming in to CCE every day because it allows me to help people doing important work in the public education system while also developing my skills as a writer, another one of my long-time passions. The collaborative environment at CCE inspires and challenges me everyday.