I grew up in Covington, La, a small town located on the North Shore, about 30 miles outside of New Orleans, La. Covington is located in St. Tammany Parish. Louisiana is the only state made up of parishes instead of counties. St. Tammany Parish schools are some of the most sought after schools in Louisiana. Their schools are known for providing a quality education to its students.
At the beginning of my summer going into 4th grade, I received some horrible news. My grandmother had a stroke, and was rushed to the hospital. That morning she had made sandwiches for my vacation bible school class at the Greater Starlight Baptist Church. She dropped me off, picked up her friend Ms. Melvinna (sp.) and drove to her favorite fishing spot in Madisonville, La. Sometimes I wonder if she knew that would be her last fishing trip?
Fast forward to my 4th grade year. Our school was broken up into tracked achievement cohorts. We were ranked from group one to group six. Group one was mainly comprised of Caucasian students, while group six was mainly comprised of African-American students. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to understand the student groupings.
Now that I’m wiser, I can see a direct correlation between the African-American male students in groups five and six, and their life trajectory. Many of those students ended up in special education classes, ultimately dropping out of school and going to prison. Covington’s school to prison pipeline began in its schools, as early as 4th grade.
Moreover, I remember my 4th grade Math teacher, Mrs. Beecher had given us a Math sprint. A Math sprint is a timed test, in which you are given a certain amount of time to complete a full page of math facts. We were given three minutes that day, with the ultimate goal of being able to complete the Math sprint assignment in one minute. I finished the Math Sprint in one minute, while other students in my class struggled. I remember Mrs. Beecher having a conversation with Mrs. Smith, one of two African-American teachers at my school. I don’t know the specifics of the conversation, but from what I remember, the next day my class was changed and I was moved to group one.
In the 1980’s African-American educators in my community were revered. It didn’t matter what grade level you taught, if you were a teacher, the black community put some “respect” on your name. School teachers taught Sunday school, and not just for the content in the Bible. They really used teaching strategies, provided supplemental materials, assigned homework, went over homework. When I think back to the amount of work that went into preparing those Sunday lessons, I am forever grateful and blessed to have learned from these heroes of our community. How many folks nowadays can say they learned how to read in Sunday school?
Nowadays, the teaching profession just isn’t the same. Less than 2% of teachers nationwide are black males. There’s a shortage of teachers in every major school district.
Is there not enough inspiration in our communities to motivate us to enact change? There is no greater change that you can provide to your community then to be a change maker. Becoming an educator is one of the most selfless acts that you’ll ever pursue. You’re not doing it for the money, or for what you can get out of it, you’re doing it because you have a natural inclination to give back to the poor and disenfranchised. At least that’s why I do it.
I’d lack to formally acknowledge the educators that made a difference in my life. I thank you from the bottom of my heart, and hopefully I can be just as impactful for others as you were for me.
They are as follows:
Mrs. Callahan Sunday School Teacher
Mrs. Heisser (SIP) Head Start
Mrs. Ruffin Kindergarten (my first crush)
Mrs. Golden (SIP) (2nd Grade)
Mrs. Smith 6th Grade ELA Teacher
Mr. McGee (SIP) 6th Grade Science
Mrs. Thomas 6th Grade Science
Mrs. Anderson Jr. High PE teacher
Mr. Landor (SIP) 8th Grade Algebra
Mr. Bass (best substitute teacher ever)
Mr. Bo Elzy Recreation Director (pops)
Mr. Spear High School Social Studies Teacher
Coach Dick O’Neil High School Basketball Coach