Michelle Johnson, a senior education major, has always been interested in advocating for the rights of South Carolina teachers and students. Interested in educational psychology, curriculum design and education policies, Johnson is in love with the field and has centered her college career around making the profession of teaching a better place for everyone. Last semester, Johnson spearheaded the creation of a new organization on campus called the Student South Carolina Education Association (S-SCEA) in order to pursue her dream of righting the wrongs of our state’s and our nation’s education system.
The College of Charleston chapter of S-SCEA works to improve education by focusing on three major issues: personalized education for students, differentiated approaches to education and an appropriate curriculum. The group meets on the first and third Thursday of every month. The first Thursday is dedicated to discussions about educational issues and to networking between students who hope to enter the education field while the second is meant for guest speakers and other special events.
Johnson created this group because she recognizes the injustices occurring in education today, and believes the biggest issue in our schools is the lack of differentiation. “Educational legislation treats the illusive student as a statistic,” she said. “There is no individualization, and everything is standardized. Any human can tell you that there is no ‘standard’ and, in fact, there is no ‘normal’.” S-SCEA works to fix these types of issues by discussing them and advocating for change. Dr. Jon Hale, faculty advisor for S-SCEA, believes that advocacy is an important step for education majors to take. “Advocacy,” he said, “is building connections with the community, parents, other teachers, decision makers and other key stakeholders in the interest of influencing or implementing policy that improves the quality of education in some way.” Johnson is convinced that there is a void in Charleston because there is no group to unify the education community through advocacy. S-SCEA is filling that void by bringing together students interested in education policy and advocating to change the injustices.
Whether you are an education major, or just someone interested in the political aspect of schooling, S-SCEA is an incredible group to join. “Students will become much more informed about the major issues facing today’s educators,” Hale said. “Moreover, students will enrich their professional networks as they begin to enter the field as professionals.”
By joining such a network, students can create enriching relationships that will enhance their education and future careers as teachers. “Teachers already have so much on their plates,” Johnson said. “They simply will not have time while they are teaching to become an advocate for themselves. Education majors should join now so that we can work together to create such a strong, lasting, activist-minded community. It will be this community that will maintain the integrity of the school system in the years to come.”
S-SCEA is just getting started on campus, but the organization is definitely planting some strong roots. Johnson has reached out to students who might be interested through information meetings, the Organization Fair and by word-of-mouth, but she hopes to see more people join soon. This Thursday, Sept. 17, S-SCEA is hosting a guest speaker from Trine University to speak about teaching against cultural bias at 6:00 p.m. in the Stern Center. All students are welcome and encouraged to attend. “We need anyone who cares about students’ futures, the future of this nation or simply children’s futures, to begin to have a voice,” Johnson said. “Without such uniformed advocacy, there is no means to an end.” Joining S-SCEA is the first step to this uniformity and improvement of the educational world.
Johnson and Hale believe this new organization will be highly successful on campus. “I hope to see the SCEA begin to establish a real presence in the community,” Hale said. “South Carolina is known for its ‘corridor of shame’ and its blemished record of providing a quality education to poor students and students of color. If the S- SCEA can address such issues, the organization has the potential to become a historic organization.” Before we know it, S-SCEA will be changing the policies and stratagems of South Carolina’s educational system. Through advocacy and community, the group will succeed in making school a better place for students and teachers at both the K-through-12 level and even right here at the College of Charleston.