Caroline, Educator, SC

Caroline Albrecht by Coker.jpg

“People have this idea that they need to go to school, and go to college and get all these degrees and work in an office building and become a CEO to make a lot of money. …I think the outlook that we have that you have to make money to be happy and successful should be changed and this would be beneficial to everyone's well being.”

Caroline is an educator at #Wando High School in South Carolina.  She was interviewed as part of a #schoolpartnership #studentvoice project with REENVISIONED, in which students interview each other and adults in their lives, and reflect together on school and what makes a good life. She was interviewed by her student, Emily.

First could you tell us a little bit about yourself?

My name is Caroline, this is my sixth year teaching at Wando. Besides teaching math I am very passionate about our individual connection to our environment, anything from gardening to reducing waste.

How would you define a good life?

I think a good life is one where you are giving and receiving. One where you feel like you are making an impact and benefiting from those feelings. I guess I am probably biased because I am a teacher and I want to make an impact with students, but it is hard because sometimes there is not any receiving back and it can be that you are just giving, giving, giving and a lot of the times it's not always receiving back and that's fine, but I think sometimes that can be challenging. So,

a life that you feel like you're making a difference.

I know that some of my friends just work in an office and they view each day of work as just a way to get money and I feel like it is important for them to have a purpose and make a difference in things they are passionate about.

Do you personally believe you have a good life?

I do. I think that it's not all good days and it not all bad days, but I think it's one that i've had to work hard to get there, but I think it takes time to figure out what you're passionate about and it takes time to get to that point where you have time to spend on those passions. My first year teaching here I was at the school till Seven every night so there is no way I would be able to have a garden. Also with being a leader of student council my purpose was planning events and that not what I was passionate about it was just my role at the school so I think I am finally getting to the point where i feel satisfied with my life and the direction it is going.

How do you think that school plays a part in forming a good life?

I think that it teaches basics like how to react and interact in society. I believe there are benefits to being able to sit and be patient. Among other skills like being able to talk to others and work through a situation and having time management. I think school also helps students narrow down what they want to do in their future and what they don't. If students hate math, which most do, they know they wouldn't want to be a financial advisor. Things like that help students narrow down what they do and do not want to do. 

Do you believe that someone has to fully complete school (high school and college) to have a good life?

I do think that the way our society is set up makes it harder to not compete school. I think it is important to be able to have a goal and follow through with it, like completing school, to have the supports in place that you need and set yourself up for the future. I think schools help students grow, but there should be other options besides just a typical high school degree.

What do you believe the three biggest challenges are for schools right now?

  1. Schools feeling like they have to prove that they are fulfilling the students in terms of tracking student growth with standardized tests. It is hard to balance all the standardized tests with all the other things that are ask of the students. For example, Juniors took three standardized tests just this spring, and that is a lot of days out from the school year. Tracking student data is needed, but over used.

  2. Another problem is the usefulness of content and standards. I am a math teacher so I obviously support and believe that all students should learn math. Sometimes when you're graphing quadratics and some kids are never going to use that again, and that's okay. It helps the student learn to think and solve a problem, but there need to be more relevant subjects taught in schools.

  3. The third problem is how society views teachers and schools.

    We don't value teachers enough and we are having a serious teacher shortage.

Do you think that others would agree with your thoughts?

Yes, I think so. I’m 29 now so I think the most common meme I see shared is how instead of teaching algebra they should have taught how to file your taxes, etc. Schools should be getting into more adult financial things that we don't have a clue on how to do. So I believe that people would agree with me on teaching more math-type problems you will face in the world not just how to solve an equation. I definitely think the teacher shortage thing any teacher would agree with me on that, the quality of teachers is an issue is an issue because we are not making education very attractive to get into. And standardized testing another thing we struggle with because we know we need it but it is just too much and learning how to balance that.

If given the option what would you change within our society to help people achieve a good life?

I think people have this idea that they need to go to school, and go to college and get all these degrees and work in an office building and become a CEO to make a lot of money or become a doctor or lawyer, which are fulfilling because you make a lot of money. I believe that there are other fulfilling jobs that you don't make as much money at, or can make as much money at but schools aren't preparing students for those things.

I think that the outlook we have that you have to make money to be happy and successful should be changed and that would be beneficial to everyone's well being.

What are your personal biggest takeaways from schooling?

I think that it is really important for students to have a wide variety of adults in their lives besides their parents telling them what to do, and the opportunity to find an adult in their school experience that they can go to or look up to and can support them outside of their household. I feel like that was very big for me with one of my teachers who cared about us so much and taught us other lessons about life. He was our marketing teacher so we got to go on field trips with him, and just stuff you don't necessary learn in school, but he was willing to put in the time to take us to trips and competitions and stuff. I believe the experiences in school are the main thing. 

How do you think school affects kids mentally?

I think we are in a time that is changing drastically. It is different from when I went to high school, it is different than when our parents went to highschool and there were big changes that happened while we were in school, but I think right now with social media and access to information and technology this generation is like the guinea pig of technology. Trying to decide how much time should you spend on your phone and the effects on the brain of students. I think that the mental health of students is the biggest challenge right now due to technology. 

Are you happy with the life you have lived and the person you have become now?

I am.

I think that there are things that when I look back I wish someone had told me that you don't have to follow the typical teacher, lawyer, doctor.

Not that I don’t love being a teacher but there are moments when I am seeing other things I am passionate about that I could have also have had a career in. My students have shaped me into the person I have become and I am so grateful they have taught me more patience than I thought I could have. I would never take back the path I have gone on because It has brought me to where I am today and allowed me to see my different passions. I realize that I have the potential to share information with students that in my opinion is growing and changing the world a little more than learning the quadratic formula. But yes I am very happy with my life and I believe I am just in a point in my life where things are shifting and changing.

10,000 Stories. One Shared Vision.

REENVISIONED is a national movement to redefine the purpose of school.  We believe schools should foster flourishing individuals and a thriving democratic society.  But what does it mean to thrive or flourish? 

To answer this, we're building the world's largest collection of stories about what it means to live good lives and the role schools should play in helping create them: 10,000 stories from people across the country.  We'll use the stories to learn about our shared values and dreams and to create a new vision for why we send our children to school. 

We work with people like YOU across the country: Catalysts - individuals, classrooms, schools, and community organizations - who interview people in their communities and foster empathy nationwide by sharing the stories on our website and social media:  Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook (@reenvisioned). 

Learn more and join the movement.