BLACK. MALE. TEACHER. Part 1: A Journal Entry

There’s an Erykah Badu music video where she can be seen walking in an empty desert wearing some funky looking alien outfit singing the lyrics:

Time to change the world

Where in the world is all the time

So many things are still unknown

So many times I’ve changed my mind

Guess I was born to make mistakes

But I ain’t scared to take the weight

So when I stumble off the path

I know my heart will guide me back

This is my student teaching experience (thus far) in a nutshell. It’s frustrating, tiring, confusing, and stressful. Yet in the same breath it is reassuring and necessary.

There are four weeks left in the school year. Teachers and students alike are literally counting down the days to summer vacation. In many classes students are doing things like taking down anchor charts and cleaning desks. Meanwhile, I am planning the second round of my informative writing lesson plans, the final math unit of the school year, social studies lessons on government, and re-teaching lessons for parts of our previous math unit. I am feverishly racing to an invisible finish line where my speed is being monitored for endurance and work ethic purposes only. The only prize at the end of this race is becoming incrementally better than I was before. It’s a harsh reality that I occasionally struggle to reconcile  in my head. Not because I don’t believe it’s necessary (it is), rather, because I know that when this is all over I still have a long way to go on a journey that only ends when it’s declared over by forces that are out of my control.  

When I’m not planning, instructing, and assessing student work I am thinking. My mind is constantly looking for shortcuts, yet I inherently know that the shortest path to my destination of becoming a good teacher is taking the long road in. That means that part of my process requires me to plan a bunch of botched lesson plans, become completely overwhelmed by the paperwork, the mental anguish, the physical labor, and repeat the process until all of my incremental gains resemble something of a major gain that can only be seen when viewing my progress on a grander scale. If this was the NBA Draft and my name was on the big board, Fran Fraschillia would have said, “he’s two years away from being two years away (3:30).” Yeah, it feels something like that.

Ironically, I feel like this is the same thing that my third graders are experiencing at this very moment. They are the classic case of being “two years away from being two years away.” I see it in everything that they do. They can write but they constantly make errors such as forgetting to capitalize words and indent before starting a new paragraph. They can calculate numbers, yet they skim through word problems.  They forget the directions even after they have just been read, re-read, and carefully explained to them. They routinely make mistakes like they were born to make them. Furthermore, they do not bother them. Then why am I so bothered by them? Maybe I’m just having a problem seeing how the incremental changes in me may somehow have an impact on the world. I think it’s time for me to watch Ms. Badu’s video one last time this evening.

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Kevin Freeman

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