By Rowlanda Cawthon, Northwest University
Simon Sinek, a well-known TEDx speaker, coined the phrase, “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.” For the past year, I’ve thought considerably about “why” I teach and the impact that teaching has had on my life and on the lives of those I serve. What I’ve learned is that there is much more to teaching than simply developing curriculum, lecturing, and grading assignments.
Undoubtedly, my “why” is inspired by experiences I had with an exceptional educator. It was the caring words and actions of a teacher that played a role in the personal and professional transformation I experienced during a pivotal period in my life. Because of his encouragement, after an eleven-year career with the Department of Corrections, I faithfully transitioned to higher education to teach full-time. It’s worth noting that this teacher also inspired me to pursue a doctoral degree, a goal that for some reason I believed was unattainable. His belief in me and his willingness to serve as my mentor throughout my doctoral journey helped me accomplish this goal. Given my experiences, I know that the implications of teaching extend far beyond the classroom.
By Rita DiCarne
The past few years have been tough on Catholic school teachers with the closing of schools and the reduction of teaching staff. Many of my non-teaching friends encouraged me to leave the profession and “recreate” myself like all the popular magazines suggest. One friend in particular asked me, “What else do you see yourself doing?” My response was silence. I just couldn’t come up with a single thing – not one.
You see, I teach for selfish reasons. Teaching gives me permission to be a life-long learner, to read and write and share my passions with my students. It challenges me to be the best me I can be and in turn encourage my students to be their best selves. Teaching keeps me young at heart and mind through my daily interactions with students and gives me the chance to see the world through their eyes. They teach me as much or even more than I hope they are learning in our classroom.
By Marlene Kimble
As a late bloomer in this profession – having stepped into a classroom for the first time at thirty five – I sat with a room full of bright- eyed 22 year olds fresh out of undergrad sitting at the district office eyes glazed over while the HR lady reviewed official documents and we signed on dotted lines. If you asked any of us why we were there, it would probably be a familiar response: I want to make a difference in the lives of children. It was true for me too. I was a mother and wife; I had been home for a number of years; and there didn’t seem to be any job important enough for me to leave my kids so I went back to school to do the job of teaching.
In those earlier years, I’m sure I made a difference in some of the lives of my kids, but I was surprised to find that there was a big difference between being a teacher and actually teaching. That fantasy of smiling in front of the room – cute dress, high heels, calling on kids with hands raised, encouraging them while they did their seat work, grading papers – wasn’t quite what education had in mind in 2005.
Here are some ways racism plays out for people of African descent working in the education system:
– Black teachers can be subtly expected to be the ones to deal with “problem” black students, even if they’re not in their class. This means they have a higher workload since they already have their own students to deal with.
– Black teachers are expected to be the ones to organize events like African heritage Month assemblies, or to lead cultural groups for black students. It’s complicated because often black teachers want to be good role models and help create positive experiences for kids from the black community, but at the same time the expectation is stifling when your workload is heavy. Also it’s great when a black teacher teaches a course like African Canadian Studies, but also that expectation can be stifling. Maybe a black teacher would rather teach another course…
– When there aren’t many black students in a school, there’s a sense of “well, maybe we don’t need to do anything for African Heritage Month.”