My grandmother used to say, “Some are called to the ministry and others went.”
What she said stuck with me. Think of the damage a preacher could do to his congregation if he or she is not called to preach. I knew whatever path I took in life, I must be called to do it. It has to be my purpose for existing on this Earth. My calling is educating others.
I did not know right away that I wanted to teach, but once I started down that path, I knew I was going in the right direction. I took the traditional route and earned a degree from Purdue University and started teaching the next year in a suburb of Indianapolis. The number of students of color I had could be counted on one hand. Even though I only had a few students of color, I saw the glaring inequities in our education system. These were some of the same inequities I experienced as a student of color attending school in Indianapolis.
Diversity Is For Everyone
The curriculum was not diverse, not only for my students of color but also for my white students. White students need to be exposed to people of color, too. How else can we prevent white children from growing into white adults who don’t understand the perspectives and viewpoints of others? I received complaints from some white parents saying I was pushing an agenda by exposing their children to diverse authors and diverse perspectives. I left that school at the end of the school year, but it confirmed that I was supposed to be an educator; people who looked like me were needed in all schools, and I had to be an advocate for change.
This school year is my 13th year as an educator, and I have been blessed to serve in many roles: English teacher, English as a New Language teacher, Literacy Coach, and now Librarian. Each of these roles has exposed me to the multitude of ways students who are poor or of color are underserved and mistreated in our education system. Yes, I can control what I do when I close my classroom doors, but that isn’t enough. I needed to find a way to expose others who don’t want to change and help those who do what to change. This led me to education writing, but I didn’t take a direct path to it.
I write all the time and have since I was a young girl. I tend to write poetry short fiction and nonfiction stories. One of my biggest accomplishments was working with my father to compose a 200+ page family history book in 2011 of his maternal family lineage. I started educating and advocating to my family and friends about knowing their history. Now, I am slowly digitalizing and updating the parts of the book that covers our deceased family members.
Then, I joined the blogging movement because my family and friends wanted to know how I was growing so much food. I created a gardening website to share blog posts, videos, and recipes to educate people about the importance of growing your own food and how to harvest and cook what you grow. Years after that, I was approached about co-writing an article for Indy K12, which was known as Indy Education at that time. Honestly, I was a little nervous. It is pretty safe to educate and advocate for knowing your genealogy and how to garden, but educating and advocating for all children especially children of color could become contentious and gain you enemies. My main source of livelihood was my job in education. How would writing education articles affect my current and future opportunities?
After all these considerations, I decided to co-write the piece and see what would happen. It got rejected, but the publication thought I could be a potential asset. I shared a link to my gardening website and to articles I had published in the Indianapolis Recorder, Huffington Post, and TWINS Magazine to show I could write coherently, and I was offered an opportunity to join the team. After I join the team, we rewrote the piece and it eventually got published and republished in Huffington Post.
Don’t Judge A Book By Its Cover
When people meet me in person they see a petite woman who is a little over five feet and a little over 100 pounds, who tends not to talk much. But when they read my work, they can’t reconcile that the same reserved person they met in person is the same person making strong and bold statements in writing. I have always been slow to speak, so I can take the time to process. Honestly, I think more people should do this. Although I am reserved, I have never been shy; I always seek to learn more and work out my thoughts before sharing what I think. This is why writing works for me.
My writing really took off when I wrote, “Teachers Quit Principals, Not Schools.” It is the number one most shared piece (last time I checked, it was over 1 million views) for Indy K12 and has been the number one most viewed piece on our site each year after I wrote it. This led me to get more opportunities to share my voice in other publications such as Education Post, The Educator’s Room, The 74 Keeping It 100, and Truth for Teachers, and I also became the editor of Indy K12.
Keeping It 100
My brand is keeping it real and being transparent. People might not always agree with me. They may even attack me, but that doesn’t stop me from elevating my voice. I believe being an educator is my calling, but that doesn’t end in a K-12 classroom. I educate others on various topics because, at the end of the day, I just want to help other people live their best life. That could be teaching financial literacy classes with my husband and sharing our progress on a podcast. That could be making YouTube videos with my children to show other kids they can grow food and cook too. That could be hosting my own podcast to expose and talk about taboo topics in education. That could be participating in the Indiana Department of Education Cultural Competency Advisory Council to ensure our department of education is serving all kids. That could be serving on the boards of two local organizations, Renaissance Kids and The STEM Connection to support other people that are trying to help children have the best possible future. That could be giving presentations to share my knowledge with others.
There are a lot of people who talk a good game, but I’m out here playing the game, and I’m playing to win for all kids especially those who look like me. This is why I do all that I do and why even in old age, I expect to still be somewhere teaching someone something.