LCFC Journal #21: Young, Black, Teaching in America Part I

21 May

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Last month, I was given an opportunity to spend the weekend in Memphis, Tennessee for the annual Teach For America Black Corps Members Summit. And while there, I had the most amazing time sitting with fellow black educators from all over the country. The theme of the conference was Healing, Building, Creating and Growing as we took part in programming at the University of Memphis centered around these notions and what they could potentially look like both in theory and practice.

From the start, the conference was very uplifting and special as the presenters and panelists talked about the importance of the work we do daily as black educators. If anything, the moderators and creators of this summit wanted us educators to take something back from the space that would enable us to continue to impact and empower our children. Although I loved the banding that took place, I couldn’t help but feel hopeless and discouraged. Teaching thus far had been a blessing and a great opportunity for me to reconnect with children that came from the same kind of communities that I did growing up but that’s often where the similarities ended.

I didn’t want to be the pessimist of the entire group, but I thought it was important to acknowledge the lack of interest in education (for my students at least) and how we could go about changing that. During a moment of reflection with the corps member group I was assigned to my comments opened up an entire discussion that stemmed from lack of support, resources and many other cons that come with serving our impoverished communities as educators. I kept it real and honest. I wanted people to know that although I had a pretty good relationship with a lot of my students, I was often tired, disheartened and miserable about their disinterest in learning.

Teaching can be fun but when you’re in an over-sized classroom where a majority of students would rather spend the entire time on their cell phones as you try to push content, not only is it frustrating, but it is exhausting! The truth is, most of my students don’t come to school to learn. They come to school to hang out and see their friends. They come to school to make sure that their snapchat is lit. They come to school to gossip and record the latest fight on social media. They come to school to eat and get a meal or two out of it because they are hungry (totally understandable).

But what breaks my heart about this is that most of my students are not performing up to standard. A majority of them are not on grade level, have issues reading, writing, and lack the tools needed to be successful in high school and beyond. Part of me feels like: what could I have done to better prepare them? Where did I go wrong as a teacher? Was I not strict enough? Was I lousy in how I presented information? Are my classes boring? Am I an inadequate educator? Did I make a mistake going into this profession?

All questions that many of the educators at the conference also shared. The doubt was real but with it came validation that should occur when you find yourself invested in a child’s education more than he or she does. If there’s anything I took from my time at the conference last month is that as an educator, you do the best you can to educate your students. However, you must continue to do the work. You must continue to fight for equity in all sectors of education. You must continue to fight for your students. You must continue to tell your students (especially black and latino) that they are important and that their hopes and dreams matter. You must continue to be there in every way imaginable. Lastly, you must continue to show up for them. Whether in the classroom or outside of it. Although I’m unsure what the future holds for me in teaching, I’m certain that I’m committed to this work of equity. The work of education. One way or another I will continue to go at bat for my students of color. They need me. They need you. They need us. Therefore, as easy as it is to throw blame in any direction let’s all do our best to hold ourselves accountable. Put them first at all costs.

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KEVIN ANGLADE is the author of mercy for murder(s) in brooklyn, a detective fiction novel. He was featured on NBC’s The Debrief with David Ushery in 2014 where he provided insight and purpose about small-press publishing. Anglade holds an A.S. in Theatre, (Queensborough Community College) a B.A. in English (Brooklyn College) and an M.A. in English (Queens College). He currently teaches 7th & 8th grade English Language Arts in Hartford, Connecticut and is the author of the poetry collection “Life Comes From Concrete”: a poetry memoir (2016).

Find him online at:

http://www.kevinanglade.com

Twitter/IG: @velevek

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