In toxic times as these, it can feel hard to break away from the noisy back and forth that riles people up and more often than not gets us nowhere. “Self-care” is a relatively new and already overused buzzword that seems to appear at every turn and one of the many recommendations that often falls under this new umbrella is a break from social media, a deliberate respite from the barrage of news—real and fake—as well as the vitriol that envelops it.
So I have a suggestion for all of us whose work relates to education but is not school based: Spend more time with students. Find ways to help and support them by sharing your time and your skills. It is an absolute tonic for the soul but, perhaps more importantly, it’s the kick in the ass many of us need to extract ourselves from the abstract and the noise and actually re-center ourselves on the north star that drives our work. Students.
I can’t go in to schools and tutor math or offer help in AP Chemistry because I am not qualified in those subjects but I can help with college essays. Schools are often overwhelmed with students who need support in writing their personal statements as well as the essays—short and long answer—for scholarship and grant applications. Schools that serve a high percentage of first generation students are especially overloaded since, unlike in more affluent schools, their students’ parents are far less likely to pay for professional admissions coaches and often lack the language and writing skills needed to polish up the essay themselves.
Last year I came up with the idea late in the college application season and was only able to get in and help the students who had late application deadlines. But this year, I have committed myself to helping every week from now until the final applications are due. The time I spend with students working on their essays doesn’t only inject me with the energy that only a school full of kids can, but it provides me a window into the lives of high school seniors in 2018.
Maybe you’re a FAFSA expert. Or a math whiz. Or a chess master. Or a writer. Whatever expertise you bring to the table, there’s a good chance that a school would not only welcome but needs it. Sure, there are logistical hoops like background checks and scheduling and not every school or school leader will be the right fit but if you can make it work, it’s so worth it.