I Know I Can

…reflections on changing the world through the love of teaching by Stacey James McAdoo…

I discovered early in life that the most revolutionary things I knew how to do were write, love, and teach. I have been combining these three passions in some shape, form, or fashion for most of my life. Decades before becoming a certified public high school educator, the imaginary classes I conducted in my bedroom with my stuffed animals turned into the facilitation of real writing sessions with peers and patrons at a local library.

Long before I had any knowledge of the NTE (National Teacher Exam) or the Praxis (or that I would one day take it for Drama/Speech Communication), I was a Sankofa Poet with a community radio show and later a television co-host of Art & Literature in Motion on a local cable access channel. My path to the classroom was not a straight one. Despite not being an undergraduate education major or a traditional student (ever), I helped run a summer enrichment program where I fell in love with mentoring. And it was the typing, editing, and publishing of the works of local and unpublished writers that taught me patience and how to coach individuals through the art of questioning.

Once I became a licensed educator, I remained a classroom teacher at the same school for my entire teaching career. That same year I became the sponsor and creative director for the spoken word youth collective called the Writeous. The autonomy and trust to teach and lead as I saw fit, the opportunity to build our school’s college and career readiness program from the ground up, and simply being one of the few teachers of color that my students encountered (especially as they matriculated through the world of Advanced Placement) was soul gratifying. Had I not been selected as the 2019 Arkansas Teacher of the Year and given a sabbatical to travel, learn, and grow, I would still be in my classroom right now today.

Each year, February 14th kicks off the beginning of #LoveTeaching Week. This campaign started in 2015 as an opportunity to celebrate teaching and have a week-long conversation about the act of teaching – including why people enter and remain in the field of education, as well as, what the love of teaching looks like. This year, as part of the National Network of State Teachers of the Year, I helped facilitate and create activities to advance this initiative. I was deeply moved by the comradery and connection that resonated across county, city, and state lines for this profession. Now that it’s all said and done, #LoveTeaching Week has left me reflecting about teaching more deeply. It has also left me with several lingering questions.

If anyone has ever had a conversation with me, it’s not unusual to hear me speak affectionately about my students and young people in general – to brag on and celebrate their resilience, creativity, and brilliance. If there’s one thing that I learned through the #LoveTeaching Week podcasts, challenges, comments, pictures, and stories shared, it’s that we need to speak of the resilience, creativity, and brilliance of teachers more often.  

Most of us have a story about an impactful teacher that we can conjure up at will. And we can almost immediately describe the characteristics of one of our favorites or discuss the influence they had in helping to shape our life, behavior, or thinking. That leaves me with these final thoughts: How might the world be different if everyone had a chance to know, love, and experience your Mr./Ms. _______ (insert your favorite or most impactful teacher’s name here)? What would education look like if teachers were loved and celebrated throughout the entire year? And lastly, how might things be different if we move beyond teacher recognition and instead embrace authentic teacher voice and engagement at every intersection within society? If there’s any group of individuals built to make not only public education but the world in general a better place, it’s teachers. We are the ones with the power to change the perception and the narrative. My fellow educators, are you ready?

***

*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.*

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