A Noble Calling

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.

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I Am a Teacher

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.

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My Father’s Enthusiasm for Teaching, My Mother’s Love of Language, and Me

By Mary Buckelew

I think back to my childhood.  I grew up in a teaching family. Our lives were governed by the rhythm of the school year. The rhythm is still comforting and familiar – the beginnings and endings.  My father taught high school math and coached a variety of sports during his 40 year career as an educator. My dad left for work happy and came home exhausted but full of funny and loving stories about his students.  When I was old enough to ask questions like “What do you like about your job?”  My father was quick to tell me, “The students — I keep the kids at the center of what I do – then I can ignore all the rest, the administration, the school board, the well-meaning parents, the mandates that don’t make sense.”

More than five hundred people attended my father’s wake this past summer, and I think most of them were former students and the athletes he had coached. Whether coaching or teaching, my father saw the best in people and worked hard to help them discover their potential in the classroom, on the football field, on the baseball diamond, and on the wrestling mat.  Coach Bellucci was beloved because he saw what was important – the heart of the matter and the heart of a person.

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I Teach Because I Want to Learn More About Myself

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.

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Racism in the Education System

By Anonymous

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.”

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Working While Black: 10 Racial Microaggressions Experienced in the Workplace

By Robin M. Boylorn

I have worked, on and off, since I was fifteen years old.  My summer office job financed the name brand school clothes my mother couldn’t afford and grounded me in the work ethic I learned from watching the women in my family go to work from sun up to sun down cleaning houses, dismembering chickens, doing customer service or janitorial work, bookkeeping, caregiving, answering phones.  I watched them get up early and come home late, carpool with other working women, and barter with each other to make sure every day needs were met.  They smiled when they were tired and went to work when they were sick because they understood that they constantly had something to prove on their job (as black folk).  They also knew that showing their humanity jeopardized their jobs.  They had to be superwomen, they had to compartmentalize their emotions, they had to separate the work they did from the people they were.  I learned from them that my work does not define me, I define myself.  So even though my aunt cleaned other folks’ houses she was never a maid.  And even though my grandmother kept other folks’ children she was never a mammy.  And even though I was college-educated and ambitious in my twenties, I was never privileged.  Working while black, regardless of your circumstances, carries with it the weight of blatant or casual racism.

Talking with a friend I likened being black and successful in the workplace to being a so-called model minority.  Model minorities know their place and don’t stand out or shine.  Model minorities grin and bear micro and macroaggressions and call them coincidences.  Model minorities on the job are mediocre minorities who live out minority stereotypes.

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