…a reflection on being a lifelong Little Rock resident, taxpayer, spouse, mother and educator by Stacey James McAdoo…
This piece was written for and featured in the Arkansas Times on November 1, 2018.
I was born in Little Rock and have lived here for 42 consecutive years. I attended Baseline Elementary, Cloverdale Elementary, Henderson Junior High, and Hall High School. I have a Bachelor of Arts in Professional and Technical Writing from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and a Master of Arts in Teaching from the University of Arkansas at Monticello. I have worked in the City of Little Rock and paid taxes since I was 14 years old. 20 years ago, I married a public-school educator who had already been working in the district that I attended as a student for several years before I met him. My 19 and 17-year-old children have attended public schools in this city their entire PreK-secondary lives. And lastly 16 years ago after the death of my brother I became a second career educator (who took a pay cut to teach) with one goal — to love, impact and make a difference in the lives of the children in my community…in MY Little Rock.
Despite the common misconception that I have it easy because I am only contractually obligated to work a certain number of hours a day or days a year, in the words of my Sonshine* and often echoed by my JEM* (*the terms of endearment that I use to refer to my son and daughter) I’m “neva not working”. Every day (regardless of the political climate, level of support and/or negative or inaccurate press) I get up and fight for everyone else’s children…sometimes at the expense and detriment of my own. After I have completely given of myself intellectually, emotionally and physically, I leave work to fulfill my family and community obligations.
I am in no way sharing all of this to paint me as a martyr because I’m not. But I am a taxed resident who financially pays into an educational system that currently has no local control. I am a professional who has not had a pay raise in over four years. I am an employee whose work load has increased while her benefits and paycheck has decreased. I am a spouse in a household where our entire livelihood is directly connected to public education. I am a mother who percentage wise pays more for her health care of her family as a state employee and public servant than she did as a private citizen and worker.
This fight…this journey…has been exhausting – especially as of lately. I am a tired. I am skeptical. I am scared. But make no mistake about it, I am 100% invested in success and future of public education; including and specifically what happens to the students and educators in the Little Rock School District.
In an ideal school setting there are not adversarial but instead authentic and trusting relationships between all parties involved, wrap around services for all students who need it, comparable & professional living wages for the educators that match the educational and experience level of their peers in other fields (and at the very least in other districts and other states), the community viewing teaching as a profession, teachers allowed to simply teach, parents involved in their children’s education, an elected school board who understands and truly represents their constituents, a safety net for students who find it hard to navigate through the system, lessons that prepare students for the real world, less emphasis on standardized testing and a whole plethora of other things that I not have the time nor space to list.
But, I, as a parent and educator, can only control what I do in my house and to some limited extend what I do in my classroom. In order to make systemic changes in the school system that will get us closer to the euphoric picture I just painted, we – the entire community – must have a seat at the table. And more than that, our voices must be heard, bridges must be mended, and we must all put in the work.
*Stacey James McAdoo, the 2019 Arkansas Teacher of the Year (affectionately referred to as 2019ATOY), is a 17-year Oral Communication instructor, AVID Coordinator and sponsor of the spoken word collective called Writeous Poets from Little Rock, Arkansas. She teaches at the historic Little Rock Central High School where she is the living embodiment of her ATOY platform of using passion and poetry to close the opportunity gap.To learn more about her follow her at www.stillstacey.com or @2019ATOY on Facebook, Twitter and Instragram.*