I am a teacher; therefore, I am successful.
I am a teacher with a Master’s Degree; therefore, I am successful.
I am a teacher with fifteen years of teaching experience; therefore, I am successful.
I am a teacher who has been nominated for Teacher Of The Year every year and won that great honor; therefore, I am successful.
My teaching credentials and the standards of the teaching profession state that I am a successful teacher.
All my life, my mother taught me, “A person can lie to everybody, but never, ever lie to yourself!” I am not a liar.
I AM NOT SUCCESSFUL. I AM CERTAINLY NOT A SUCCESSFUL TEACHER..”
My students have asked me year after year when I was teaching, “ What is success?” My answer always varied. My reply usually was, “Success is what you make it. ”It has taken me all my professional teaching career to learn-that I am not a “successful teacher” because I was NOT allowed to be.
Teaching is political. Who teachers is based on favoritism. I am guilty of believing in faith. I believed that after I got my education, at the top schools in the Nation, I would get a job and become a teacher. Then, I would teach thirty years, retire, live a few more years happily then die. That is what teachers did.
My sister is a teacher overseas. My mother was a teacher with a PhD. She helped desegregate the schools in the North. As a child, she was the first woman of color to attend a prestigious eastern girls school before Brown v. The Board Of Education. Her mother was a teacher who taught Black children in the segregated South.. We are a family of teachers. My husband is a teacher also with a Master’s degree. My brother is not a teacher, but has a Master’s too. Forgive the pun, but I am the black sheep of the family. I am the only person in my family that is unsuccessful.
Why? Because I am the only family member who decided to live in a city that does not accept educated black people. Have I been able to teach here? No, not in the city I reside. However, when I did get a teaching job elsewhere, when I subsequently qualified for a continuing contract, I was let go.
Where I live, there are few black teachers and no other black professionals; yet, the population is almost twenty percent black. There are no minorities of any kind with positions of power. If or when a Black person does acquire a job with power, they never last long before ousted by any means necessary. We had a black police chief once. He was let go because he used a work computer to answer his email. The email was work related and sent to his personal email address. Why wouldn’t he check it at work on the computer?
We have our token black people. There is one black firemen. There is a black policeman. We had a black detective. He retired shortly after the new black policeman was hired. So, there continues to be just one black officer. The city has a population of thirty five thousand people. No black officials, and no black judges. There are no black female teachers and only three black male teachers in the high school. The middle school has no black teachers at all. In all of the elementary schools, there is one black female teacher no black males. There is one black school administrator. My husband and I are two of the black professionals in the city which has less than fifteen black people with college educations. Indeed, the school system has graduated many black students who have gone on to college and graduated. Many have gone to graduate schools of varied types. Nonetheless, because they cannot get hired, all have left the area and gone elsewhere to find jobs.
I am an unsucccessful, excellent teacher who has not left here. I am here in this racist place because my husband got a job here almost thirty years ago. I have applied many, many, many times to every school system in the area. I have been unable to get a teaching job. None of the schools in this area have black teachers or any other minority teachers. I got a job near by once. I taught there three years. During this time I was pressured to get my Masters’. As soon as I did, I was laid off.
What lessons have my continued unsuccessfulness taught my children? That color does matter. That others will be the favorite, but not them because they have black skin. That they will have to fight for every inch of goodness they get and most likely still will lose. That unfortunately, education does not matter if they are black. That it is who they know, not what they know and still it does not change that their skin is the wrong color to be successful. That Karma is always too late. This is what my children have learned.
The students in the town have learned: That there are no smart black people that they know. There are no black teachers, except physical education teachers, that they have had. They believe there is one black policeman on the force because blacks should not be cops. There are no black people in their lives that have made a difference in their lives. There are no black people they respect. That there are only Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman in black history except in February. That black people make good athletes, but poor students. That black people live in the projects and have no fathers. There are just a few.
I am an embarrassment to my family because I cannot keep a job or get one here. When I was laid off last, my family lost half of our income. We are losing our home . We are struggling to keep our children in college, pay the car note, and eat. Of course no one in my household has expressed disappointment in me because they know how this town is. My family elsewhere never forgets to tell me how incompetent I am because I am poor and jobless.
An older lady told me once that she thinks that desegregation was the worst thing to happen to the black community. She grew up when everything was segregated. Black students were taught by black teachers who cared about them and knew their entire family. They lived in their communities. When a student was not doing well, the teacher dropped by the home often staying for dinner to talk to the parents of the student. The community was close-knit. Everyone cared for the children. The children were raised in a loving environment without hatred within. In those days, black children had positive role models. From that time came the heroes we all know from history. Then, integration happened changing everything-forever.
As a result of integration, black teachers were no longer needed. They were not allowed to teach white children. They were fired. The black students went to schools where they had to cope with angry parents, and nasty students. Violence toward them was common in school and out. Gone was the loving environment replaced with fear and hatred.
Yet, here I am. Nothing has changed. I am the black teacher in the twenty-first century who cannot get a teaching job in white America. I think I should have followed the lessons of those who came before me. I should have stayed in my own community, where I would have been protected from the hatred and racism of the white world. “The finger of righteous indignation” pointing at me because I am different and dare to try to teach white students. Those people continue to point at me saying, “We have the power to ruin your life because “you people” are not like us. And this is how it is done.”
In the long run, it is not people like me that will suffer greatly. But, the white people who destroy the lives of black people because they do not want their precious world and children to be altered to a new way of life-a new reality. Fear. Fear that one day they will awaken and have a black boss, or black grandchild or God forgive-a black teacher.
In the meantime, white children are stuck in a world where little has changed for them in regards to race since the end of slavery. Their growth has ceased where race relations are concerned. Black children and other minorities do not have this problem. For like chameleons, they can fit in anywhere they are accepted and will continue to try to change the minds of those in areas where they are not accepted. History has taught minorities to be tolerance of people who have no desire to accept change. So I suppose teachers like me will continue to lose their homes and jobs for the sake of the promise of progress someday. It is the children of those people who willing practice de facto and or de jure racism, who truly deserve our pity.