River Deep, Mountain High

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
May 13 2012

Mother’s Love and Motivation

The past few days have been a whirlwind. After a three days of standing for four hours straight due to state testing, I was able to sit down and do some grading and TFA work on Friday at school while my kids entertained themselves by playing cooperative games or making Teacher Appreciation Week cards. It was wonderful! I also had a chance to talk one-on-one with some of my troubled students about the issues they are facing in their lives. Honestly, I still enjoy the role modeling, mentoring, and counseling aspect of my job more than teaching science content. I wish I was afforded more time for these crucial conversations. Moreover, my homeroom was one of three classes who won a pizza party. I’m not really sure what we did to win, but we’ll accept on behalf of being awesome ;-P

I also had my “TFA Graduation” of sorts; more on that later. Saturday morning, I had the chance to participate in a pitch showcase as the capstone of my participation in the Delta Innovation Challenge, an initiative geared towards cultivating entrepreneurial ideas to increase student achievement in the Mississippi Delta. I enjoyed participating in this program and hope to build upon the feedback I got from the judges and audience.

When I think about what motivates me to do the work I do, I immediately think about my mom. Where does my conviction come from? It comes from her consistent display of loving selflessness, care and sacrifice. I wish each one of my children could be raised under the guidance of my mom. This week, I hope to work on some character-building activities with my students, including a lesson on their key motivators. I’ve shared one of mine below:

“I believe it is an injustice that circumstances of one’s birth limit the opportunity to attain an excellent education. Growing up as an African-American male in a rural, white community in Maine, I didn’t fully comprehend the “achievement gap;” I did not know that I was supposed to fail, to drop out of high school, or to serve time in jail. I was born to a high school sophomore, who gave me up for adoption when she realized she could not support a child. Fortunately, a remarkable single woman adopted me and nurtured my growth from a young boy with an uncertain future to a young man with a degree from an excellent university.

However, my own path to college was far from guaranteed; although I found a successful path, I remain agitated that we can predict a child’s life trajectory based primarily on their zip code. Whether I am contrasting the conditions on either side of Harvard’s gates, or either side of the train tracks in Mississippi, I am inspired to close the divide between America’s highest ideals and the realities on the ground. Therefore, I am wholeheartedly dedicated to eradicating the educational inequities that persist in the United States.”

To my fellow TFAers and others involved in making America a better place whether it be in academia, medicine, politics, or business, I ask: what motivates you?

“Ability is what you’re capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it.” – Lou Holtz

One Response

  1. I was JUST thinking the same thing about counseling. It’s also incredibly, frustratingly depressing that I would never even consider going into work as a [school] counselor because they never get to actually counsel. Especially in an area like the delta, where genuine counseling can change lives, and all they do is paperwork. :(

    You have a surprising story! I’m glad you posted it, glad to see you this weekend, and horrifically depressed that I didn’t get to know you more personally in person. Glad we got the blogs, at least…

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Remove Barriers, Raise the Bar

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