Life update: This coming year, I’m going to be a teacher at Chavez High School in Stockton Unified School District.
My two years on Harvard’s campus were full of lots of rich learning. I took classes at the education school, the Kennedy School, and at the business school. Between terms, I visited schools throughout India, spent a summer at Homeboy Industries, and launched New Teachers Thriving (soon to be Educators Thriving—more on that in a future post) in Boston and Stockton. As I wrote about previously, I spent this past year, my residency year, here in Stockton, California working for the school district. During my time in Stockton Unified, I worked closely with Superintendent John Deasy and served on the leadership cabinet for the district. I learned an enormous amount about what’s involved in leading a school system. I also helped lead the district’s talent work in the HR department.
I also became a total running dork (evidence below).
The time at Harvard and this past year in Stockton affirmed that I want to lead a life rooted in community, in proximity to kids and families, and that, God willing, I’d like to one day pursue leadership roles within school systems. I want to spend my life working to ensure that all people—particularly those marginalized by systems of oppression—have the opportunity to rise to the heights of their God-given potential. This next move, returning to the classroom, feels aligned to all that. Also, California requires folks who want an admin credential to have five years of teaching experience, and I’ve only got four. So I’ll be doing work that sets my heart on fire and that ticks that box too. :-)
It’s been eight years since I was a classroom teacher. I spent five of the intervening years leading a teacher training program and three of them in grad school. Over that time span, I’ve had the opportunity to visit and learn from some of the best, most innovative schools across the globe. I’ve read hundreds of books about education and leadership. I’ve had the opportunity to study with some of the world’s most preeminent thinkers about how we can improve our educational systems. It’s been a privilege to zoom out and look at this work from the forest level.
Now, I’ve got the opportunity and responsibility to put all that thinking into practice in the one place that matters most: the classroom. I’ve got the chance to work hard to be the teacher my students deserve.
When I think back to my first four years in the classroom, a quote from Maya Angelou comes to mind: "I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better." When I taught before, I did my best with the knowledge and perspective I had. My prayer and commitment is that, in this next chapter, I would learn to apply some of what I’ve come to understand in the intervening years. In particular, I hope to teach in a way that reflects my deeper consciousness of race, class, and privilege. Additionally, I hope to orient to a vision for my classroom that explicitly extends beyond academics to include social-emotional development, teamwork, and the pursuit of a world that is more just, equitable, and free.
Now that I know better, I want to do better. As an aspiring anti-racist ally, that’s my obligation.
Along the way, I know that I’ll fail in countless ways. Heck, I feel totally unequipped to do this whole distance learning thing. My prayer, though, is that I would have the courage to dream big, try for something bold, and risk failure. I pray that I would be willing to experience personal discomfort in pursuit of a big vision for what my students, their families, and I could accomplish alongside one another. I pray that I would resist rushing back to familiar practices that aren’t as aligned to my newfound convictions about what it takes to enable young people to experience true flourishing.
It’s gonna be a journey. I’m anxious. I’m full of questions and doubts. And, in addition to all that, there's excitement. Also, that quote from Eleanor Roosevelt that my Mom loves so much and that I’ve come to love as well: “You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” Amen, Eleanor.
Ready or not, this journey is getting started: School starts this coming Monday, August 3! Please send prayers and good thoughts my way.
P.S. In addition to teaching, I’m working alongside a fantastic team of people to launch the New Teacher Thriving (soon to be Educators Thriving) program into its next iteration. Specifically—and as you might imagine in the midst of all this Coronavirus craziness—we’re working hard to migrate the program from one that’s fully in-person to one that’s fully online. At this point, it’s looking like we’ll be partnering with three districts around the country to pilot the online program this year, and we’re actively thinking about what it would look like to take the program to other schools and districts around the country. More on that in future posts.
P.P.S. I’m putting together a fundraiser to help buy books for my students. I’d be so grateful if you’d be willing to consider making a contribution! More info here: https://www.gofundme.com/f/help-my-students-become-passionate-readers