In case you missed last week’s blog, we continued our “So What. Now What?” series and talked about six ways to pivot. This week is the final installment of this series, but it is one that surely will not disappoint! Today’s blog will focus on inspiration and motivation that teachers can use from some of the greatest moments that made history last week. During President Biden and Vice President Harris’s inauguration, the powerful and awe-inspiring poem ‘The Hill We Climb’ read aloud and performed during the nation’s inauguration’s youngest and first-ever youth poet laureate Amanda Gorman. At a young age, Amanda was encouraged by her mother, an English teacher, to begin writing poems to help her find her voice and cope with a speech impediment. Amanda is an example of a young aspiring woman who maintains a ‘So what? Now, What” mentality.
Ms. Gorman's Poem was inspired by her life's personal experience and the recent events in the news and at the Capitol building on January 6, 2021, just weeks before the new Biden/Harris administration. The planned last-ditch effort to impede the election’s outcome motivated her to finish the work she shared with the world on inauguration day. During her speech and during interviews that followed, she shared that she has intentions to run for President in the year 2036, the year she becomes eligible! Wow! Educators, we salute you! Amongst a world struggling, the light prevailed, and we all had the honor of watching this extraordinary young woman help inspire hope and change for everyone! If that is not motivating and inspiring in it itself, then what is? While our company reflected on the words spoken throughout last week’s event (as we encourage everyone to be intentional with), we identified several parallels to four of our company’s core values (reflection, clear communication, modeling, and humility). At YES Inc., the events helped us to make connections with the ‘So What. Now, What’ mentality themes we’ve been discussing in this series. So now, we have new leadership in place, now what? So we have been called upon, now what? How will you rise to the occasion as an educator to help the nation heal and become a perfect union? And how will you draw inspiration from Amanda Gorman and our youth?
This week’s blog will feature a story from YES, Inc.s’, Connie Perez. Mrs. Perez celebrated her 25th anniversary with YES, Inc. this past year! We value educators like Ms. Perez for their contributions and undying dedication and service to the Noble Profession of Teaching! For the past 25 years, Ms. Perez has served in several ways including, as an educator, counselor, Principal, Special Programs Coordinator, Bilingual aid, bus driver, and child advocate touching a countless number of educators, leaders, Children, and parents along the way. Ms. Perez will share her story about what it means to be an effective teacher and use inspiration from Amanda Gorman to make connections with the “So What. Now What” mentality.
What is an Effective Teacher?
During my reflection time, I often think about what characteristics make teachers effective? I believe that a teacher is someone who becomes a “light in this never-ending shade.” An educator who is “striving to form and forge a union with the purpose to compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters, and conditions of man.” A good teacher “does not sew division” but seeks to unite, inspire, and uplift every single student touched! A teacher is one who always strives to reach the heart of kids, especially the hurting ones! A teacher takes the time to find a way to teach and help all kids, especially those who push back because they are looking for and need a friend and need an ally with a kind heart.
As a lifelong committed teacher of 40+ years, I understood that I had to take on many roles in teaching my students, such as being a mother figure, a friend, disciplinarian, guide, leader, confident, and child advocate. I accepted the additional roles and worked diligently with many families and children throughout my many years, not for my benefit or to boost my ego. I did extra on behalf of the children to help them and the child who needed support to grow positively. I continued to do it to change lives and inspire others to be all in with what they are doing.
As a career teacher, I found myself waking up in the middle of the night worrying and thinking of individual children and praying for wisdom. The wisdom I needed to make the right decisions, what to do, how to help, and how to support them? I have taught in several public schools, from pre-kindergarten through the twelve grade. For me, children were children, students were students, and hearts were hearts! All with great minds carrying various gifts and talents; that generated beautiful ideas and high levels of creativity. What a blessing it was to have experienced this in this lifetime!
I especially remember one extra unique child that I will call Jose. He was in the 5th grade, and I was his classroom teacher. He would linger after school hanging around the campus, helping the custodians clean the classrooms to take out the trash. He often stopped at my classroom so that I could help him complete his homework. One day I sent his mother a note for her to sign permitting me to take Jose to pick up a
McDonald’s dinner to take home. With his mother’s permission, I took him the next day. He was excited and ready to get a Big Mac dinner. When we got to the McDonald’s order line, Jose refused the Big Mac and asked for a Happy Meal. I knew this was not a big enough meal to fill his hunger, so I asked him again, are you sure?
After the second time, I asked him why? I thought he was starving. He stated, “I want a happy meal because my big brother who just came home from prison will not take it away from me.” and “He does not like Happy Meals.” he was starving, and I was stunned! I did as he asked me to, and I took him home.
The following week, when Jose came to see me, we talked some more; he shared that he had a nickname, and it was “SAD BOY.” Jose said that his real name was ‘Sad Boy’ because that's how he felt. His friends, peers, adults in the community knew and acknowledged him by the name of ‘SAD BOY.’ Jose began to embrace the phrase ‘Sad Boy’ as his identity at the age of 11. I continued to help Jose and worked with him to keep up his grades. Christmas holidays came, and I did not see him for two weeks. On the first day back at school, I heard the terrible news; we experienced severe weather with excessive rain during the holidays.
The drain ditches became flooded, and we had rushing water for days. Jose had been playing near the ditches and fell into the water. The water rushed him away, and they eventually found his body on the other side of town. The school community was heartbroken! All of my students were sad, and so we united in thoughts and prayers for comfort. We shared memorable past experiences of our life with Jose. As a teacher, I realized that I had lost an opportunity to change the child’s spirit after Jose’s death. I lost the chance to intervene and make a difference in Jose’s life. I did not reach out to others before his tragic death, and I realized that I could have done more to impact Jose and advocate for him. In Ms. Gorman’s Inaugural Poem, she proclaimed, “As we reach to one another, we seek harm to none but harmony for all.” The glow says this is true! We do not sow division.” If I only had taken the time to take my action a step further, he would have known he was valued. I would have had the opportunity to be a beacon of light for him and encourage others to be kinder, be more supportive.
So now what? I will always remember Jose and what happened, and now I go above and beyond to honor him and be what I need to be for those I support. As educators and teachers, we have been sharing, using, and carrying powerful words throughout our teaching careers, perhaps without realizing the impact made now, tomorrow, and in the future. I didn't get to see what would become Jose, but I have had the privilege and honor to see and hear stories of what my students aspired to become. When you work with children of all “colors, cultures, characters and conditions of men.'' Be intentional and listen to the messages communicated because you may be hearing an indirect or subconscious cry for help. As teachers, anytime a child confides in you or sends subtle messages that something doesn't seem quite right, take the time to pause and figure out what's going on with an open mind. If you are a teacher, now more than ever, I encourage you to rise up! Many children are still at home and not in the classroom, so we need to continue to be a beacon of light, even if you’re teaching remotely. Did you know that the suicide rates of children at home have increased since the beginning of the pandemic? Educators, we need to rise-up! Be inspired; you may be helping to mold and shape the next President of the United States. If you're not a teacher, the next time you see or meet a teacher, give them a shout out and praise for all the good, hard, wonderful, and blessed work they do with all children.
“So now what? How can you use motivation and inspiration to make your next move?
Declare and promise yourself that if you see something, you will find the courage to say something. If something doesn’t look right or seem right, you can be intentional by taking immediate action, and ask meaningful and relevant questions or seek help! Don’t be afraid to try something new or different. If you are stuck, don’t stay stuck; come up with a plan to move forward in an intentionally positive direction for yourself and your students. Like Ms. Connie and her self-imposed obligation to help Jose despite challenges, can you find a way, as Amanda Gorman pleads, to “find light in this never-ending shade,” and are you brave enough to continue to be the light for you and for others who need you? Moving forward in the year 2021, ask yourself, how will you be a beacon of light and a bridge for children? Now more than ever, when met with obstacles, how will you help students overcome the current challenges they are facing.
If today’s blog topic has inspired you, it may also encourage your students. Check out some of the lesson plan ideas we found that may interest you.
Brought to you by PBS: Here is a free Lesson Plan: Discuss 22-year-old Amanda Gorman’s inaugural poem “The Hill We Climb.”
This free PBS lesson designed for grades 9-12, “Write Your Own Inauguration Speech.” is a great way to build confidence and inspire dreams and character. This lesson can also be adapted and modified for younger students.
I Do Solemnly Swear a free K-12 lesson plan brought to you by EdSitement. Another modifiable lesson, however, this lesson seems more appropriate for the upper elementary and middle school grade level.
Watch or re-watch as Poet Amanda Gorman delivers her poem at Joe Biden’s Inauguration here.
Are you’re looking for a tool to find motivation and inspiration to help you flush-out your thoughts? Do you need guidance on how you can be more effective and also more reflective? Then, you need a tool to help you focus on what’s important now. If this is you, check out the I Incorporated Journal available on Amazon, the book inspired that, Begin Again Differently by Claudette Yarbrough, our agency's executive leader and CEO.
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