Confession: Sometimes people throw shade when they find out I’m in school for my doctorate. When they first find out that I’m back in school again, they look confused and ask me if I’m going for a second master’s or something like that. It’s almost like they think I’m confused about my life and I don’t know what I want to do so I just keep going to school. They’re fine with it when they think that I’m getting a master’s. However, when I tell them that I’m going for my doctorate, the vibe quickly changes. They start telling me how tired they are of school, how they feel getting a doctorate is not worth the trouble, and how they are so done with school and never going back…. as if to imply I am wasting my time.
That’s fine. We each have our own journey. The truth is, they have no idea why I’m doing what I’m doing. They assume that I’m just trying to exert myself into a place of authority. They assume that I just want to be an administrator and in charge of everyone else. Sometimes, they even assume that I think I’m better than them because I’m trying to put letters behind my name. In other words, they think I’m doing too much and they do not have a problem telling me.
The truth is, I have been a teacher in the same ‘hood I grew up in for 14 years now. I have seen our education system fail our students for all of my 14 years working. I have seen them treated like robots and their humanness ignored. When I got my master’s, I did a very thorough research study on the best practices for at-risk students in inner cities across the country. I combined all of those practices together and created a Civic Leadership curriculum. I convinced my job to allow me to pilot my program there. I knew that it would work, but I knew that they would not hear me if I just gave a presentation. I knew that they would have to see it for themselves. Unfortunately, they rarely come and observe anything that’s going on in my room. Therefore, the beauty and magic that is happening with our students is going unnoticed.
After piloting the program for 2 years, the students were ready to lead. They wanted to combine all of the things that they have been learning in our class and take action. Since I care about them and listen to them, I created a student government a few weeks ago. We have six officers per grade level from 5th through 8th grades. We had our first meeting last week and it was outstanding! The popular kids who are notorious for their behavior were elected to be officers. Rather than turn them away, I challenged them to step up.
They are excited, empowered, and they were the most professional I have ever seen them in that meeting. They stood up when they wanted to speak. They learned about Robert’s Rules of Order and I demonstrated them for our first meeting so that the Sergeant at Arms of their grade level would be able to do it next time. They had meeting agendas and took notes. They came up with a constitution and bylaws for student government, as well as a good fundraiser and community service project to get started on. I am so proud of them!
This semester, I had to do a great deal of research on our school specifically and how it measures up to other state statistics. The things I found while doing that research were staggering and quite frankly, upsetting. As usual, I became extremely passionate and somewhat distraught about the discoveries that I made. Knowing that the people in charge will not make time to listen to me or even take what I’m saying seriously, I have to go another route.
The letters behind my name will cause people to stop and pause before they brush me off. When I write a book about my discoveries, they will want to read it if I have letters behind my name. If I ask to do a research-based presentation, they may allow me to, and they may even listen, if I have letters behind my name.
However, without the letters I am just another emotional and dramatic teacher. They will continue to tell me to stay in my lane and focus on testing. My school is just one school out of many across the nation. Our students are a representation of the greater whole. There are kids all over the country that are being ignored for their humanness and treated like robots instead. I advocate for them.
If you were to ask me why I am going to school for my doctorate, the answer is simple: so I can advocate for the students that are being ignored.
Additionally, I am a single parent of two small boys. I don’t know if I will ever get married again, but if I don’t, I want to position myself so that I am in a higher income bracket. I want to be able to take care of them and give them opportunities, experiences, and exposure so they can grow to their fullest potential. I don’t want to work for anyone else. I want to be able to be there for my children and pick them up from school, do homework with them, take them to all of their activities, and expose them to things all around the world that I would never be able to do if I was stuck in a building full time. Being a teacher causes me to focus on other people’s kids more than my own. While I love all children, it is critical that I show my own children they are the most important to me.
I got tired of devoting my weekends to lesson plans and grading papers and not being able to simply play with my sons. I am tired of the pressure to focus on testing and ignore the humanness of my students. I am tired of seeing what is wrong, knowing how to fix it, and being dismissed without any consideration.
Therefore, I made a plan. I am sticking to it. And if all goes well, I will only be working about 6 to 8 days out of the month and I will be able to spend the rest of the time with my own children. I will be able to provide them with incredible opportunities and exposure without stressing about money. They will be able to travel, participate in school activities, as well as other special workshops and classes. I want to show them that we can be whatever we want to be in life and that there is no limit to the success we can attain. We have regular conversations about delayed gratification. I want them to know that Mommy is making a huge sacrifice right now so that we can have a much better life later. I am doing everything in my power to make things better for my own children as well as the students within the American education system.
I don’t just have goals. I have a mission. People don’t have to understand it or support it, but I will not stop until I make a difference. 💖