As a black teacher in a rural area, I find that I have to work ten times harder to help close the gaps that exist as well as build a positive representation for myself. Teaching in a Title 1 school, parents are often skeptical if I can fully meet the needs of their child. So I work overtime to build a positive relationship with all of my families. It becomes a true work of multitasking.
I can still remember the questions about where I graduated from, if I have received any educational awards or accolades. Initially it was saddening to see how little these particular parents entrusted me with educating their child. So I made it my mission to go above and beyond to prove that I am one of the "teaching greats."
Black Rural Teachers matter because we have to learn how to do more with less. We have to learn how to accomplish tasks with the bare minimum and oftentimes minimum support. I am actually a product of rural schools, and this is the very reason I chose to work in rural schools. Oftentimes these schools' resources are more limited so you have to become a master artist and learn how to intertwine different activities and materials to accomplish lessons.
I would like to say, it took me a while to blossom as a teacher. While this is my 13th year in education, I didn't truly gain my wings and confidence until year 8. I finally landed at Manchester Elementary in Spring Lake, NC, when I truly began to find my niche and could see that I was making a huge impact in the lives of children and families.
I've always known in order to be successful as a Black Woman and now Black Teacher that I would have to over compensate and go above and beyond. I would have to show that I was capable of ensuring success for all of my students. Specifically, black teachers want to know that we matter, that we are helping to achieve the mission of the school. Oftentimes, my drive comes from within... an internal force or calling that pushes me forward. While, I have never been recognize beyond my school community as a master teacher I know my work speaks for itself.
Black Rural Schools and teachers often need a different level of support. We need support with building positive relationships with communities and repairing that relationship. I know the level of success that many of my students have reached is due to my parents' level of involvement, but let's go deeper. Many families want to be involved more, but they simply cannot because work, bills, maintaining a household and keeping food on the table are the priorities. Many of my families struggle... how do we close the achievement gap in these communities? These families need support with having their basic needs met, which would help pave the way for these families to be involved in school more. Societal stress, poverty, homelessness, broken homes, childhood and family trauma, and the list continues, blocks these families. Rural Schools in poor communities need help!
This past school year some of my most memorable moments were helping several families get new uniforms and laundry detergent. Just imagine taking away the simple barrier of clean clothes and uniforms did for these families. This is what my families needed. They wanted to see my love in action. They needed help, and it was the most rewarding feeling of my entire life. It meant the world to me seeing my families get the resources they needed to ensure that their child attended school each day.
This was all as a result of a Donors Choose project that then turned into several Twitter supporters also helping me get uniforms for my families. Black Rural Teachers need a support system, a village that has our backs to make dreams come true. Oftentimes, we dream big for our school and community, but we lack the support to bring our ideas to light.
Lastly, I would like to share that I am not the only teacher who possesses the drive, ambition and pure passion for educating children for the future. I am so blessed and honored to work at a school full of educators like myself. Sadly, the only messages that spill into the community are the negative stories. We would love for folks to know the positive, the nights that we cry, evenings that we stay until the custodian closes up the building... matter to our families and community. There are times we feel beaten into the ground with little or no thanks. It's our heart, our love, and the passion we have, because we know our students matter that keep us going. We know that we are educating the next doctor, scientist, lawyer, politician, teacher, chemist, and, possibly, President of the United States of America.
This is why in spite of everything we stay, we push, we challenge, we motivate, we inspire, we speak up, and we love our students with every ounce of our being!