In the Classroom
Clammy palms. Nervousness. Increased heart rate. Prayer. As a former player and head basketball coach, this was my normal experience prior to games, especially the big ones. Most players and coaches have rituals and similar feelings before stepping on the court or field before a game or match. The anticipation and repetition of rituals for over 20 years in my life are unmatched except by my arrival to my classroom on the first day of school. The smell of a clean building, shiny hallway floors, stacks of paper, and opening a new Expo marker provide a feeling of potential and dreams of making things better and anew for all students. For twelve of the fifteen years of my educational career, the first day of school always causes me a mixed bag of feelings including joy, apprehension, excitement, nervousness, and thrill. Will I be able to do everything I can to make my classroom a safe space for all my students? Will I be able to meet each students’ instructional needs while bringing a healthy dose of joy, critical awareness, growth, and learning to my class daily? Each first day of a new school year starts with these questions because I take the privilege of educating students seriously within a system that crushes and harms so many. I am humbled every day to be involved in a profession with profound and remarkable implications for shaping society and impact on individual human lives. Although my years as a classroom teacher have been full of humbling moments and both glows and grows, being in the classroom with students is my jam and where I’m meant to be.
I teach because God provided me the passion and desire to instruct, lead, learn from, encourage, advocate for, and empower young people. Although I fought it tooth and nail and boldly exclaimed several times as a teen and young adult that I would never become a teacher, this profession is what I was built to do. I teach because my mind and spirit won’t rest until Black and Brown children receive in every school building care, love, and commitment to safe, quality learning environments they deserve. I teach because I want all students to learn and grow in a space where they safely exist while discovering, sharing and living their truth. I teach because I stand on the shoulders of incredible Black women educators who taught and helped shape me. These women interceded for me as I navigated the various potholes within an educational system not built for me. I teach to honor their advocacy, instruction, love, care, empowerment of the introverted, Black jock-nerd girl who sat in their classes. To my grandmother, mom, Ms. Barnes, Ms. Taylor, Ms. Andrews, Ms.McGee, Ms. Hodges, Ms. Adams, Ms. Foster, Ms. Miller, and Ms. McKay, I say thank you. Thank you for being a role model of what a Black woman educator could be in the life of their students. I feel deeply compelled to provide the same amount of nurturing and accountability combined with meaningful learning that was provided to me to all the students who walk through my classroom door. I teach to provide students and educators an example of how a fierce, ingenious, hard-working, and conscientious Black woman educator can shift the needle by subversively disrupting the status quo for marginalized students. I know and am firmly grounded in why I teach. It has been a welcome change to deal with the ebb and flow of middle school students again. So instead of nervousness, think of that binky, comfort blanket, or your favorite stuffed animal from your childhood. Comfort. Calm. Soothing. Reassured. Peace. Over two months from being back in the classroom, I’ve experienced each of these while sharing space and working daily with middle school students this fall. We work hard daily, learning from each other, dreaming of liberation while growing together in our classroom community towards what is and what can be.