...I was a small second grader with big dreams of being a teacher just like Ms. Honey on the movie Matilda. I would live in a cute little cottage and be super sweet and love all my students. For "What I Want To Be When I Grow Up" Day, I wore pink dress up heels and had my hair tied back and carried around a notebook. I wanted to be a teacher.
...I was a third grader with dreams to be a teacher just like my teacher, Ms. Schnarrs. She typed so quickly, loved Disney, her room always smelled good, and she told me that one day my brother and I would be best friends. (She was right.)
...I was a fourth grader with dreams to be a teacher just like my teacher Ms. Paris. Her desk was always a wreck, she cast me in the class play (which gave me momentary dreams of being an actress) then encouraged my love for writing, (which gave me momentary dreams of being an author) and she loved Dr. Pepper.
...I was a fifth grader with dreams of being a teacher, so I collected all the extra worksheets from my teachers, brought them home, and enlisted the girls on the street to play school with me.
...I was sophomore in high school and was entrusted with my own kindergarten choir class at church. I learned how to manage a classroom of rowdy 6 year olds, I learned how to carry on a very lengthy conversation about Bob the Builder, and I learned how to interact with parents.
...I was a junior in high school, and I took my first trip to Africa. Where I realized that I was a world changer, a Daughter of the King with a passion for helping the least of these. With a thirst for knowledge and a desire to see love spread around the globe.
...I was a senior walking across a stage to receive my diploma, and I was walking into the next chapter of my life.
...I was a freshman in college and I took my first trip into the inner city culture of Lower East Side Manhattan. Where I quickly learned the art of being firm and asking, "Where are you supposed to be?" To students wandering the halls. Where I learned that love sees no color and that kids are sponges.
...I was a sophomore in college, and I took my second trip into the inner city culture of Chattanooga. And I learned that prayer in school can never be removed when a teacher is praying ceaselessly for her students. And I met my first friend who is from an abusive background. And I was taught how to dougie from three second grade girls. And the same girls micro-braided my hair, which took quite awhile to shake out of my "white girl" hair.
Last week, I was at an elementary school in Chattanooga with Mrs. Y's second grade class, observing my little friend for a class back at Lee. On this particular day, the class had a funky schedule which put us outside on the playground for an extra hour, which lent itself to an extensive game of Duck Duck Goose.
As I watched 60+ second graders sit in the grass, laugh, and enjoy the early April sunshine, I was overcome with love for these guys. I genuinely cared about each and every one of them. Their well being, their futures, and their educations. I scanned around the little circle, and I counted two white faces looking back at me. Two. Out of 60.
I should be used to this. I've been at this school many times before, I'm in the inner city of Chattanooga, I've taught in NYC, I'm looking at and praying about being an inner city teacher, for crying out loud. I should be used to this.
But where I'm from, it is lily white. If there's a black kid at school in the Wilco, it's like a fly in milk. Lots of money, lots of affluence. My high school minds well have been a private public school.
I once heard that educators teach in similar environments to the ones they grew up in. I hope not. I love the Wilco, but no thank you.
As I watched my second graders play Duck Duck Goose, I couldn't help but think about the statistics that are stacked against my precious little ones.
Incarceration rates are 6 times higher for black males than white males.
Black women have the highest teen pregnancy rate.
Each year, 1.2 million students drop out of high school. Over half of these are from minority groups.
My heart shattered into a million pieces. My precious little ones were literally going to have to fight to not be another number. A sense of despair began to creep into my heart, but I realized what a great responsibility had been laid on my shoulders.
No matter where I teach, if it's in an affluent neighborhood like Franklin or in the Bronx of New York City, I am a world changer. I can impact the lives of the future of my country. I fill young minds with the knowledge of the world around them, and I can encourage them that education is a ticket out, a ticket to a better life.
Overseas in developing countries, an educated woman is more likely to have a healthier, smaller, and more educated family. She is less likely to sell her body. She is more likely to attain a higher paying job and make a steady income.
Education leads to opportunity. As an educator, I hold the key to opportunity for all the students that will pass through my classroom. And if I can help just one, if I can just change one student's life for the better, I will have made an impact.
Change just one. Feed just one. Love just one.
On the same day that I was in Chattanooga playing Duck Duck Goose, I was in the parking lot walking to my car back at Lee later that day. A woman approached me and the small group of girls I was with, and she began to tell us her story. She had just recently lost her mom to cancer, she was struggling to pay her bills, she had suffered a serious car wreck, and the electric company was going to shut off her electricity the next morning if she didn't come up with 40 dollars.
As she told her story, I will admit that I thought, "Oh, I am not about to enable this woman to go to the supermarket and buy alcohol. I will not enable her." But that thought was quickly stomped out by, "Satan, get away from me. Jesus loves this sister just as much as He loves me."
I asked the woman her name. She told me Rebecca. I apologized that I didn't have any money, but some of the girls I was with did have cash that they shared with her. I asked her if we could pray for her, and she excitedly said yes. So right there in the parking lot, we prayed. We prayed for provision and for Dad to remind Rebecca that she is loved.
I think of Rebecca everyday. Because even though I was not able to help her in her situation, I was able to pray with her, and I pray for her everyday.
Feed. Love. Teach. Heal. Help. Serve. Pray for. Just one. But don't stop at just one.