Excerpt from Letters to Ms. Em 2 Coming Soon...
To: Dedicated, Caring, Nurturing Teachers & those on their way to becoming Dedicated, Caring, Nurturing Teachers.
From: (Rainn) Someone who missed out on the Dedicated, Caring, Nurturing Ones.
From the very start, let me thank you from the bottom of my heart for your ability to see that children in Urban areas are in need of quality education. Something has led you to believe that public schools in the inner cities are lacking teachers just like you: the dedicated, caring, nurturing type.
Question: How many teachers do you think started out feeling the same way that you feel right now? You know, very energetic, eager to get out there so that you can spread knowledge to the future. Those same teachers who "felt" the very way you feel right now? You know, very energetic, eager to get out there so that you can spread knowledge to the future. Those same teachers who "felt" the very way you feel right now are sitting in their over-crowded classrooms telling the future things like: "I’m still going to get paid whether you learn or not!" He or she is frustrated, half of her class was probably born addicted to drugs, hasn’t been diagnosed with the learning disability that they so obviously have, purposely passed to higher grades because many children just get to big for the desks in their classrooms. Oh! There’s no justification for the derogatory comments being made to school children, but he or she does have the right to be frustrated; you will have that same right also and believe me you will use that right.
Please don’t think of my words as discouraging, no, the under-privileged children of this nation need you to educate them so that there can be a brighter future. The obvious shouldn’t have to be spoken for there to be an urgency, obvious being the judgment they will face in the world around them. Think of what I am saying as a requirement, something you have to hear; something you have to feel before stepping into the unknown. Whether it’s Headstart or 12th grade, your first day will be a shock-that is not an issue though; how you respond to that shock each and every time you experience it is the issue. Will you begin to erode? Meaning: Will all the hopes and drams that you have begin to disappear because of things you never expected to happen? Will you stand before the class and say to yourself, "I can’t do this, I really can’t do this!" while wringing your hands? Because there will be times when it seems like you have lost all control, notice that I said seems. Your career in teaching will only go as far as your heart will allow you to go. Your frustrations will come as a result of many things, children who display classic signs of abuse ranging from mal-nutrition to molestation, from neglect to visual signs of physical abuse. You may be told by your superiors to just concentrate on teaching or they may do the right thing, it’s that notion though that someone would actually think about not reporting the abuse of a child. I’m sorry but these things happen and how you handle them coincides with your hopes, dreams & goals involving teaching.
There are no set solutions, there will be so many individuals situations that you haven’t been prepared for. One thing that may surprise you is that the children won’t be your biggest challenge, the parents will be. Some parents look at you as a babysitter, someone who gives them a break from 8am to 3pm. Getting them to become involved in their child’s schooling is almost unheard of to them, "that’s your job!" some will have the nerve to say. It will be like war with the devil himself if you can image that, I have had conversations on the phone with my son’s mother about confrontations she’s had with teachers and principals, I’m telling you it has left me speechless, shaking my head in disbelief. Like I said before, it will come at you from all directions & just when you thought that you had seen it all, something new will cause you to question the morality in people.
You have started out on a journey that will test all that you are as a human being, your main focus at all times should be your safety and if that is not a problem then the children; after all, you still believe, don’t you?
Where I Come From by Ms. Em
I come from the warmth they call paradise
A place in South America known as Trinidad and Tobago, in the West Indies;
Where the land nourished my body and nourished my soul.
Where the sun enhanced my brown skin tone and added natural highlight to my hair;
And blue waters emptied my spirit.
I come from a small village, where we worked together to maintain the village
And to care for one another
I come from poverty in paradise too
But dreaming kept me role playing
I come from walking home from school and ending up climbing a mango tree to ravish and savor on my long walk home
I come from the village where a villager inform my mother that I was climbing a mango tree; strongly looking out for my safety, and knowing that it takes a village to raise a child. I respected the consequences.
I come from being reprimanded with extra chores and no play time because of that climb.
I come from Saturday community center visits, where I learned the tradition of my African ancestry: storytelling, the dance, the religion, the foods, we met and we talked
I come from reading and writing as branches of the root of education
I come from pride in learning to make my future a success
And although poverty reigned, dreams and education washed away the shame
I come from respect for the family near
and far; loving family because we share the same blood and name.
I come from being closed to Aunties and Uncles and Cousins and even had a best friend
I come from a loving mother and a loving yet relentless father
I come from being proud to be told Oh, you are Vena and Harry's child and your grandmother is Tamazine.
I come from a mother saying, "You can be all you can be, be encouraged."
Remember I come from poverty in paradise
A place where dreams are encouraged under the stars
Only because my parents knew that I was a STAR.