From the depth of need and despair, people can work together, can organize themselves to solve their own problems and fill their own needs with dignity and strength.—Cesar Chavez
After a long day of teaching I walk around the classroom picking up pencils and scraps of paper. Some pieces of paper have scribble notes that make me smile. Students exchange jokes or attempt to create meaningful emojis. Other times the scribbles make me stop, wonder, and worry. One note shows two stick-figure drawings with one image’s face scratched out. Other scraps of paper have words like “I don’t like . . .” What did I miss today? How will I handle this?
As a college student, at twenty, I found myself under the tutelage of an educator of color for the first time ever. I did not learn from another one until I was thirty. During my tenure as an educator, I have served students as diverse as America itself. I scoured my memory. I can merely recall fewer than ten colleagues of color among the hundreds with whom I’ve worked. In March I traveled from rural Alaska to New York City to visit Heinemann Fellow Tiana Silvas and her colleagues at PS 59. I was looking for effective instructional strategies. At forty, nineteen years into my teaching career, I found what I hope all thoughtful, passionate educators, regardless of race or ethnicity, will someday find in order to better serve our students. I found community—just as I am.
Heinemann Fellow and fourth grade teacher Tiana Silvas thanks a teacher who took the time to see her parents as people and believe in them.
Tiana goes on to talk about the how just listening can serve to reaffirm a child's existence, and how one teacher can make a positive impact in the life of a child that can ripple out through generations.
As my sufferings mounted I soon realized that there were two ways in which I could respond to my situation—either to react with bitterness or seek to transform the suffering into a creative force. I decided to follow the latter course.
―Martin Luther King Jr.
Teachers are on the front lines. We are advocates, mediators, magicians, actors, and even healers. Yes, healers. On any given day a teacher can witness a student trying to make sense of struggles in his life. As teachers, we carry students’ stories with us. Some of the stories make us cry, some just about break us, and some transform us.