Sept 3rd, 2015
This is my response to a birthday shout-out from Shanik, a former student of mine from when I was teaching high school history. Shanik has just become a high school teacher herself. She offers me her words of encouragement and admiration. Nowadays, we inspire each other.
Via Whatsapp, I say:
I’m asked everyday if it was worth spending so much time in NYC under the pressure of the DOE (Department of Education). Sometimes, I get bitter, just a little bit, thinking about that awful environment and how it had me feeling stuck. I was consumed by negativity.
But you, woman now, reaffirm that I didn’t waste time, I didn’t defer my dream (to live overseas), I didn’t linger cuz I was scared of letting go of security. There was a job to do. Still is, even though it ain’t for me right now. I got a chance to make a connection with at least one more brilliant mind. The job gave me that. The job gave me you. So keep on! You flap your wings and may you never tire.
You’ll be better at it than I for sure. And I will celebrate you the whole way through.
Let me be very clear: I believe that the joys and merits of my teaching experience back in NYC, back at home, could ever be matched anywhere in the world. I am usually beaming with pride when my old New York City students and I cross paths again, and they spout off something amazing about their lives to me. Jillian, Shanik’s classmate, flew to South Africa on a business trip and aloud me to host her and her colleagues for an evening. How’s that for a full circle!
Kemar just hit me on facebook with words of gratitude. He is leading his own consulting firm. And Joel is a principal of his own school. The list goes on. Across the board, I had no flipping clue in who I was investing my sweat and, on quite a few occasions, tears. But I’m grateful to feel that challenging them when they challenged me made a difference in their lives. It was an investment in my home community. It is by God’s grace that I get the rare privilege of hearing from their mouths that I laid a helping hand on them, and perhaps nudged them in the direction of life success—however they so live up to it. And I encourage any educator, especially educators of color, to start their work at home.