“…when we speak we are afraid
our words will not be heard
but when we are silent
we are still afraid
So it is better to speak”
Audre Lorde, A Litany for Survival
I swear I think that stanza was written for me! I’m a reluctant speaker…an introvert by nature…so I had to pull out the Wonder Woman shirt and do a couple of poses to conjure up my inner Wonder Woman-ness so that I might have the courage to speak in spite of my fear.
I don’t have a whole lot to say that I didn’t already write in my Arkansas Democrat Gazette OpEd piece – other than I love my community and I love my students. The only way forward is together. As one. One LRSD. One locally democratically elected board. And lastly every single one of us – students, parents and teachers – should feel valued, heard and respected. Nothing should be done to us or about us, without us. Our voices matter. And so do the things that we say.
Let us remember that this is personal. We’re not talking about facilities, structural buildings or compiled data…we’re talking about human beings. Children. And they are watching.
When I was named the 2019 Arkansas Teacher of the Year, my students compiled a list of things they asked me to remember and to convey. I have those notes here with me today. But more importantly I carry them with me in my heart at all times. It was around this time last year that teachers were on the frontline fighting for their students and to be treated as professionals.
Again, the children are watching. In response to witnessing the low teacher morale, fear and uncertainty caused by last year’s battle over the Fair Teacher Dismissal Act – where discussions and divisions were sewed to pit teachers in one school against teachers in another, one of my then freshmen Communication students said she wished there was and I quote “more psychological help and support for teachers because when they are happy, we are happy.”
A tenth grade AVID student urged that we examine the reason behind the rules/laws instead of implementing and enforcing them just because they are on the books.
Another requested that we “don’t punish students for their parents actions”. And a now AVID senior suggested that we create a mechanism that allows students to truly voice and properly address their concerns about curriculum, teachers, budgets discrepancies and all things education.
These are not my words. These are the words of our children. Many of whom would be considered “failures” based on ESSA and their test scores.
And during a classroom visit at one of the local schools that has been labeled as “failing” school, students asked me to let the Governor know they were not a failure…and that they can’t help where or to whom they were born.
All of these babies make valid points. And none of them are failures. They are dear, sweet, beautiful, brilliant children who deserve our support, our love, endless opportunities …and most of all one district. One locally democratically elected board. And teachers who are respected.
On behalf of all the public teachers out here tonight who fight day in and day out to educate the whole child, I’d like to leave you an excerpt from my poem I Teach…
As for me I teach
And I realize that as I teach I learn
I learn that math
Equals out when the common denominator
Is not treating students like a book of problems
I learn that science
Is hypothesizing the best formula
To stay positive as a proton
I learn that social studies
Is more than the 3 branches of government
It’s really showing how family faith and finance is a foundation
And I learn that English
Is not about punctuation capitalization and spelling
When reading between the lines of a suicide note
I have learned that I don’t teach a subject
I teach a child
The labeled, the college bond, the scared, the confident
The undiagnosed, the self-medicated
I have learned that I don’t teach a subject
*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.*
I teach the most perfect gift a parent has to send me: I teach.