She told me that every single day, me making that effort to go talk to her was what kept her from harming herself. I just think about that kid. What if I hadn't — what if I was so concerned with the content that I did not make the extra effort to make sure that she was okay?
Video interviews from Teachers in Their Power.
Students have so many things that they have to do, both academically and non-academically, and I think it gets very easy for adults, whether they work in classrooms or not, to not have empathy for what students are going through developmentally, emotionally, academically.
One of the differences between learning from an AI program and learning with a teacher in a dialectical manner is that you don't have that empathy, connection, dialogue. All of our kids have so much potential and deserve for someone to have high expectations of them and to help them improve and grow, whatever that means for them.
My connection with a student was able to save her life. I was her Business teacher. And there was a point where she was always in class, always participating. She was actually one of my best students. But during the course of the first year I had her, she started missing class.
It was about the third classroom I walked into that I saw a distinct pattern. It was in the written instructions that the teacher would leave for me. It's called the sub plans. And at the bottom of all the sub plans was always a list of students' names. And above that list of names was a title. And that title said, “Problem students.”
The fear in my mind of saying the wrong thing is a fear I have as a teacher constantly. And that scares me as an educator who constantly is trying to create positive dialogue that considers all sides of the debate.
I'm originally from Atlanta, Georgia. Inner city, poverty-stricken area. My sister and I are first generation in our family to go to college and to get our advanced degrees.
I'm a teacher for the Department of Education at Rikers Island. My background is 35 years in the construction trades and six years now with the DOE teaching incarcerated students.
I remember that Monday morning getting an email from our principal. We had lost a student. And I froze. I remember calling to the security guards, “Hey, watch my class.”
I think it was the first time that I realized how much impact teachers have. The experience that you give the learners in your classroom can change the paths that they walk for the rest of their lives.