…reflecting on singular stories, defying the odds and issues in education by Stacey James McAdoo…
This piece was written for and featured in Arkansas Times’ Big Ideas for Arkansas 2019 on April 26, 2019.
Its been almost a year since I was named the Teacher of the Year for my school district…roughly five months since being named it for my state… and in approximately one hundred and twenty days I’ll step out of the classroom to assume that position. In theory, I’ve had close to 9,000 hours to think about my “big idea” to improve education in Arkansas and what I would like to shine a light on, using an amplified teacher voice.
“Pick one issue,” they say. “Think of, then share, one message — one thing you’re passionate about and focus on that.” But that’s extremely difficult for someone who lives in her head and who knows intimately the dangers of and damage caused by singular stories.
I grew up in a single parent household. The neighborhood that I affectionately remember is now often referred to as “south of 630” by outsiders and usually said so with great disdain. And although I am in no way ashamed of who I am or where I come from, when people who don’t “know know” me, introduce me — those singular story buzz words they use make me cringe.
I get it. I am the typical feel-good story that people like to share. And it usually goes a little something like this: “Stacey James McAdoo, born to parents from the projects, whose father was a high school drop-out who was murdered by the time she started grade school has been defying the odds for more than four decades. An average student in high school, who paid for college out of pocket while working full time, now serves as an inspiration to many at-risk youth. She is currently an AVID and Communication instructor in an urban district where she spends most of her day teaching low socio-economic students.”
Insert gag here.
While I am the person described in the text above, I’m so much more. I care deeply about many, many things. Life experiences, losses, and first-hand exposure to blatant racism and social injustices have never afforded me the luxury to care about just one thing. Some of my passions include addressing the inequities in education (including but not limited to school funding, zoning, access to curriculum and resources, the distribution of teacher courseloads, duties, assignments, and salary, etc.)…teacher recruitment and retention – especially as it relates to the need for more Blacks and educators of color in core, as well as, advanced placement classes and leadership positions…wrap around services for students and teachers…counselors (not cops) in school…as well as the removal of gatekeepers, policymakers, and lobbyists, who as Ice-Cube said, “either don’t know, don’t show or don’t care about what’s going on in the hood” are several of my passions.
Revisiting of high school graduation requirements, revamping course offerings and re-examining our policies and procedures for implicit biases are also things continuously at the forefront of my mind. I even passionately care about being treated like the licensed professional that I am, the sacredness and protection of my time, the elimination of punitive tasks and anything I’m required to do if “no” is the answer to my question of “If I don’t do this, am I hurting my students?”
As a classroom teacher, I pride myself not on the statistical data and test scores of my students, but rather on the relationships built, connections made and the art of reflective practice. Before I can take a student up Bloom’s ladder or help them develop a Growth Mindset, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs must be addressed and met.
Every.Single.Thing. I do in the classroom is done with the goal of getting my students closer to their self-actualization of the greatness that was already inside them long before they ever met me. And I often use my passions and poetry as a connector to help remove barriers so that they can see themselves more clearly.
So, if a singular story must be told or only one BIG idea or message shared, let it be that.…
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*Stacey James McAdoo, the 2019 Arkansas Teacher of the Year (affectionately referred to as 2019ATOY), is a 16 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. Her journey can be followed at www.stillstacey.com or via @2019ATOY on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.*