As I hugged each student, I wished that I could take their pain away. I wished that I could assure them that they would be safe at their school every day and I wished that incidents like what had happened earlier in the week would never happen again.
Unfortunately, those are guarantees that I cannot give.
A school in my district made the news last week because of racist acts committed by several students at the school. While various schools in my district have made the news in the past for similar horrifying incidents of hate or alleged abuse, this particular incident troubled me deeply, as I know several students who attend the school and one of those students was interviewed in the news story. Furthermore, I just spent my Saturday afternoon with many of those students at a block party that was sponsored by the Students of Color Alliance (a Board of Education program, designed to empower and educate students of color in our district) as a way to unite the community. These young leaders wanted to end the school year on a high note, but instead most of our time was spent checking on the emotional well-being of students from that particular school.
I hate that.
I absolutely love my job and all of the benefits that it affords me.
I love being able to engage with youth of all ages throughout the county.
I love talking to my classroom students about finances, budgeting, starting businesses, and planning for the future.
I love serving in school, district, and teacher association leadership capacities that offer support to thousands of educators both in my district and outside of it.
I love traveling on educators’ tours and visiting museums with others, soaking in rich history with each step that I take.
I love attending CTE conferences and connecting with other CTE educators in the country.
I love creating resources and curriculum for my fellow educators to use in both their personal lives and in their classrooms.
I absolutely LOVE my job!
But I hate having to hold a student in my arms as they attempt to convey the fear they feel just living in their Black skin.
Yet I recognize that to whom much is given, much is required.
When God called me into education, I had no clue what the job would entail, but I now see what my mind could not comprehend back then….
I lost my job in early May 2017.
I was at work in DC preparing to head out and visit a client when one of the owners of my company called me into the HR Director’s office. The female owner, HR Director, and my boss were physically in the room, while the male owner was on the phone. My back was still in immense pain from the accident that I had been in back in February of that year, but as I sat there in that office, back pain was the least of my concern. By law, employers in DC do not have to tell employees why they are being fired so when they rendered the news to me, I just accepted it with no questions. I walked back to my desk, packed up my belongings, giving theirs back to them, and I left that building with a smile on my face. I had no money in savings, as the accident had depleted all of my reserves, and I had no clue what my next would be but I had crazy faith and I held onto that with everything in me.
A few weeks prior to being fired, I had shared my testimony for the first time. It was on Sunday, April 16, 2017 that I had recorded the video that set me free, telling all would listen about what happened to me as a child and declaring my liberty in Christ Jesus. I was still on a high from that so the words of my now former employer mattered little to me. My smile and excitement for life carried me through the summer months and right up until the moment when I decided to volunteer at a local school that my niece attended. I didn’t know then, but simply signing up to volunteer led me down the path that I am currently loving six years later. From a volunteer, to a substitute teacher, to an instructional assistant/paraprofessional, to now a classroom teacher, God has continued to show His love, grace, mercy, and favor as He quickly propelled me in His work and kingdom ministry. Hear me clearly, Beloved, I am not where I am now because of M.E.; I am here only because of God. Period.
In November 2020 when God told me to trust Him and start the journey towards becoming a teacher, He told me that of the 10 high schools in my district, I would not end up working for one of the schools with a high population of students of color, but that I would be placed at a school where many of my students did not look like me. I made peace with that as I trusted Him and His decision. I soon understood that my presence was needed where students of color were in a deep minority because I was being sent to walk with them and do what I had done all of my professional life- be a voice for the voiceless.
I made peace with all of that… yet it still breaks my heart when I see the fear and frustration that I witnessed this weekend.
Selfishly, I pray that my hugs say the words that I cannot often say aloud. Despite how much I write here, sometimes I do not know what to say to a student who is hurting. I often don’t know what words will heal their deep wounds… if any words can heal them at all. It is when words fail me, that I pray my hugs heal. I pray that a warm and loving embrace can help these students travail through the horrors of their life. I extend my arms and open my heart, in the hopes that I may take their tears and exchange them for love. This is what I was called and created to do. Yet this is also the most difficult calling of my life.
I have no easy solution to the problems that plague our district, county, country, and world. However, what I do have is a beautiful prayer shawl (thanks, Bestie!!!) and two knees that God continues to strengthen each time I kneel in prayer.
Beloved, I do not know what you are facing in your life right now, but like I do with my students, I extend my arms and heart to you. Whatever you may be experiencing, I render prayers to our omnipotent God, humbling asking that He would meet you where you are and bear your heavy burden for you.
This is my year of GRACE and today I have abundance of grace to pray.
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