My path has been one of trial and tribulation, valleys and peaks, but most of all, it has been a process of progress. Growing up in North and Northeast Minneapolis, which can be two totally different worlds separated by a bridge, we had a really difficult life. I was kicked out of four schools by the time I was in 5th grade. I believe the trauma my siblings and I faced was a contributing factor to my struggles in school.
Based on my rocky education experience, the last thing I thought I would be doing, as an adult, was being an educator. I never even enjoyed academics. Life, sometimes, comes full circle, however, and here I am. I am so blessed to even be alive. Now, I have the opportunity to help kids navigate life in the way I wish someone would have helped me.
When I went to school at Northeast Middle School in the 90s, I never saw myself within my curriculum; it made it hard for me to engage in class. Now, I have returned to this school as a teacher and I was given an amazing opportunity that I will forever be grateful for by Ms. Laurie Lamperty, Mr. Vernon Rowe and Jehanne Beaton. They allowed me to create a curriculum and provide our students with the opportunity to see themselves in what they are learning through an Ethnic Studies class. I think we have attained success at great levels so far in these first two years.
Relationships are the most important aspect of education. If you can’t reach them, you can’t teach them. My teaching style is to first connect with my students and allow them to be seen as they are without judgment. I allow them into my world by telling them my story. I don’t know if my way of teaching is the best way, but I know I am connecting to students. I believe in discipline, structure, and love. These are the three pillars of who I am as an educator.
The most important thing in young people’s life is their foundation. Foundation being family or the people that are providing for them. In our schools, especially in the inner-city, we lack strong parental involvement and positive relationships between home and school. We need to connect with parents about their children and have their support and cooperation. I truly believe in the village model. We all have to invest in these kids and be able to give the same message across the board so that they are given the discipline, structure, and love that they need not only within our school walls but out here in the world as citizens.
We need to do better for our students of color, especially our young black men. We must hold them accountable with love. They should know they can make mistakes without fearing they will be judged or ostracized for it. When our young people of color are successful, everyone will benefit. When they are not, everyone suffers. We need a culturally-relevant curriculum more than ever. Students need to see themselves in what they are learning in order to be able to connect and fully engage. When they see themselves, THEN AND ONLY THEN will our young people of color see the importance of education.