I was disappointed. 8 or 9 Fellows who just finished their 1st year teaching came as guests to the last class of one of my university courses. I don’t know if I was disappointed in our guests, in the program, or in the Professor for bringing in these particular Fellows. Each of the Fellows used words like, 'miserable,' 'painful,' and phrases like, 'it was the worst year of my life' to describe the year. What?? This was supposed to be an encouraging end of the summer celebration! And what went down was a series of sad stories and melodramas that definitely killed any sense of optimism or confidence that most of the teachers-to-be had.
One Fellow talked about how her 1st year experience forced her to drink every night alone in her apartment. Similarly, a Fellow talked about crying every day after school on her train ride home. What?!? I didn’t want to hear any more of these pathetic sob stories.
Only time will tell, but I guarantee that after my 1st year, I will not be reporting that my 1st year of teaching in New York City was horrible. And for sure, I will not have to drink away the pain! Never that. I will make it work. Know that.
Maybe I have a leg up. Maybe it has to do with the fact that I didn’t grow very different than most of my students. Maybe it has everything to do with the fact that I was once labeled special ed, and I know the horrors and pains as well as what worked for me as a special ed student. Maybe it is the fact that I don’t look much different than most of my students. Maybe it’s because I’ve seen and been at the bottom of the barrel, and I teach not because I want to, but because I have to. I’m here because a community- my community is dying and suffering, left behind and lost. I teach because so many young people, especially young African American boys do not have any positive male role models. And I’m teaching because I know that until we all make it, none of us have.
All but one of our guests were women, and mostly Caucasian. I have no doubt that anybody can make a difference while teaching students who come from mainly African American and Latino communities. However, I do believe that being an African American and a male will help to reduce some of the cultural friction, as well as increase some of the trust that my students will have of me.
I am in this for the long haul- student by student, community by community.