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Becoming a teacher saved my life.
I began my teaching career one month after the passing of my father. I’d spent the summer grieving – laying in bed sad and lost – navigating the path of who I was now that he was gone.
On the first day of school, I sat nervously behind my desk – and watched as a gaggle of bright faced Black students walked into my classroom. Ahmad, Caleb, and Dalyn shook hands and found pleasure in having class together. Taryn entered, long legged with a mouth full of braces. Then Shaheem, loud and prepared for a fight. And Calvin, who ended most of his sentences with the colloquial “you heard me?” This was my introduction to the children of New Orleans.
There were days when I thought I would lose my mind – as is normal for any first year teacher. Some days the grief of losing my father was so heavy – that I would walk out of class and weep in the bathroom. Some days, I could not leave fast enough and would weep in front of my students. And they would sit in silence – or rush to me and hug me; telling me stories of a grandmother who they lost to cancer, or a friend they watched bleeding in the middle of the street.
But most days, I spend my time laughing and learning from young people who are searching for themselves in a city that makes it easy to be lost. New Orleans, if you let it, will eat you alive and not even have the decency to spit you back up. My students have seen death and glory; know what it means to be literally and theoretically hungry.
They are surviving and survivors.
The relationship between myself and my students is a mutually beneficial one; they often tell me how much they love and need me.
For some, I am mother, sister, aunt, nurse, therapist, and friend. And as daunting as that responsibility may seem – it is not one I take lightly or for granted.
That is why I’ve created Black Women Are Teachers, a movement that celebrates all the guidance Black women give to students – in and outside of the classroom. A part of this movement is funding the artistic, entrepreneurial, and scholastic efforts of students of the African Diaspora.