The Moment I Knew I Was Called to Teach

The moment I knew I was going to become an educator was during my last year of college, volunteering at a local elementary school in East Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

One afternoon one of my fifth-grade students asked me where I attended college. I told them I attended Louisiana State University. My college and this school were located less than five minutes away from each other and as a total surprise and shock to me, these students had never visited this campus. They thought only white students attended college there.

I knew right then and there I had the potential to serve as a role model who could expose them to more than the community around them. While these children lived in a community plagued by poverty and violence and society had already deemed them “at-risk,” I knew that they could achieve beyond their limited circumstances.

I Didn’t Know Much, But I Did Know This

When I began my teaching career, I was placed in a Title I elementary school with students who were economically disadvantaged in southwest Louisiana. I walked into my first year as an alternative teaching certification candidate with an undergraduate degree in sociology and concentration in criminology.

In other words, I knew nothing about curriculum, pacing guides or standards but [pullquote] I knew if something didn’t change in education, more and more African-American males and females would enter the criminal justice system.[/pullquote]

It’s Not Easy

If only I knew then what I know now, maybe I would have been more prepared for what I was going to face in my classroom. On a daily basis, I encountered students who battled parent absenteeism, gangs, and lack of exposure to the world beyond their “gated” housing development.

As a first-year teacher, I probably was not the most effective, but [pullquote position=”right”] what I did know was love, care, passion and survival.[/pullquote] Surviving the school year without shedding any tears or getting verbally attacked by a parent, all while equipping my students with the skills and tools necessary to one day become successful and productive citizens in society.

The reason I became an educator and continue to teach is unchanged—to expose them to a world outside of their local communities and to guide them on which paths to choose. I teach for those children at the elementary school I volunteered at almost seven years ago.

An original version of this post appeared on Education Post.

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