Marisa Rouse '12
Corps member with Teach for America
1) What are you doing now?
I am a 2012 corps member with Teach for America in Charlotte, North Carolina. I am about to start my second year in the classroom as a high school math teacher at the Renaissance School at Olympic High in South Charlotte. Over the past year, I taught 6 different math subjects, and my students ranged from freshmen to seniors.
2) How do issues of ethics and values enter into your professional role?
I have encountered various ethical dilemmas throughout my first post-grad year, although there were two main issues that seemed to arise repeatedly.
First of all, I found it is often difficult to decide how involved to become in a student's life. Especially by the end of the school year, I had several students coming to me to talk about their lives and confide in me about problems they might be having at home, etc. It can be a difficult position as a teacher. You want the students to feel like they can come to you with their problems. At the same time, though, you have to draw a firm line and make it clear that you are their teacher and not their friend. You have to decide how best to proceed so that they know you are available for help, without letting them confuse you for a friend.
The other main ethical issue I faced was figuring out how best to use my time. Should I devote the majority of my time to enrichment activities with the high achieving students who will most certainly move onto college? Or should I spend more time with the student who is still struggling with addition and subtraction and has doubts about even graduating high school? I'm still learning to navigate that challenge.
As for values, one of the lessons I learned at Prindle (and from Dr. Steele in particular) has really helped me in my work--and that is the idea that everyone has his or her own story and everyone's story is equally important. I try to learn my students' stories and their backgrounds because I am genuinely curious and interested in them as individuals. Taking the time to build these relationships with them infinitely benefited the teaching side of my job.
3) What societal ethics issues are most important for us to address and why?
Before we can ever hope for a more equal society, we must address the inequality inherent in the American public school system. After a year in the classroom, I agree 100% with Teach for America's claim that the achievement gap in public schools is the most major civil rights issue for this generation.