Some say, “it takes a village to raise a child”. I’m not a parent, but I agree with that statement because it took a village to raise me. My parents, grandparents, teachers, aunts, coaches, friends’ and teammates’ parents, church leaders, neighbors, and those that saw me grow up in gyms going to basketball games. I’ve become the person that I am today because I’ve had great role models, and others (along with myself) have set high expectations for me. I’ve done okay for myself because I knew that others believed in me, even if I didn’t believe in myself in any circumstance. I knew that if I messed up, I’d be afforded a level of grace and that everything would end up okay. This is one reason (of many) of why I am a middle school teacher. I am apart of “the village” now, even if it’s in just some small way, for 120 13/14 year olds this year. And there will be 120 more next year. And the next year. . .
I get up to go do my job every day because it matters. I care about all of my kids as if they were my own because many others have done that for me. I believe every kid deserves access to a quality teacher, and a fair shot, so I do my best by kids every day to try to give them just that. This work is urgent because these are the lives of children and because this is the future of my community. I teach because it matters.
While I cannot control things that happen for my kids outside of my classroom walls, I can control what happens inside of my classroom–my attitude, my effort, general consistency, the classroom environment, classroom morale, helping kids approach all things with a growth mindset, the lessons and materials kids have access to, and generally the notion that these kids know above all that they have an adult who cares about them and loves them (if they didn’t know that already). No matter what is going on at home, or what backgrounds my students come from, I believe that they deserve the best everyday from me no matter what. I teach because it’s challenging.
At my previous school, I saw my students simply accept the reality around them. Many were simply attending school (some were barely even doing that), and just going through the motions. Most of my students had a hard time realizing that there were a lot of little steps along the path to get them to their long-term goals. The problems around them, from things happening at home, in their neighborhood, and just regular teenager problems, were distracting them from a bigger picture. Many students had bigger goals, but no idea how (or little access to others who knew how) to go about reaching them, and were growing immune to their surroundings and the fact that others deemed them to have limited life prospects. I teach to help students see the bigger picture.
I want my students to know that I have bigger dreams for them, and will do whatever it takes to help them succeed. I want their achievements to continue throughout high school and college, and for them to have an instilled sense of ambition, drive, and purpose, so that they will continue on a path that allows them options, no matter what expectations are put upon them, or circumstances they face. I want them to be advocates for themselves, and I want to inspire them in a way that they will continue to advocate for their education in the future. I teach to inspire students to dream big.
This year I’ve been trying to bring the world to my students in small ways. Not only do I want them to be better readers, writers and thinkers, but I want to open their eyes to the world beyond their neighborhood and their “time”. I feel that by opening their eyes to new things, they will see themselves in a larger world, in which they can do anything/be anything/go anywhere. I teach to lift up kids and give them access to a larger world.
I want my students to not only learn content in my class, but how to be better critical thinkers, and a better version of themselves overall. My hope is that this vision of themselves, and a new world outlook, will transcend eighth grade and guide them on their path through high school and a successful college career. I want my students to have academic goals, as well as personal goals (short term and long term) that they can connect to their educational goals. I hope that my students take their successes and experiences from my class to realize they have infinite potential. I teach because many taught me.