Focused on The Foundation

Did you sign your 2020 teaching contract?

Listen, signing the contract this year was a little different. Usually our principal hand delivers them and within a day or two we are signing and returning a copy. Well this year, it was virtual contracts! There were a few glitches but me being me, I was like wow, look at all this paper we are saving! 

I was paying close attention to the words and clearly everyone was. It was sent out three times to change the wording and dates, etc. Listen, teamwork makes the dream work! If we all speak up, we can perfect this process and save the district money, but more importantly save the environment! 

This picture is being shared on social media. It’s the second time over the years, I’ve seen it flood timelines . Now I can’t seem to find the original source, nor do I know if it is false or true. But, listen, if this is the contract, this Authentically Dope Educator wouldn’t be an educator. 

Let’s keep it 100%! I know times were different in 1923. Let’s first mention that I am Black. So I thought back to the Rosewood Massacre. In the movie, they show a teacher who was falling in love. I began to wonder if educators during that time had to adhere to these rules. I’m sure they didn’t get paid and/or receive the same funding the white teachers did. Does that sound familiar? 

Also I thought about Charlotte Hawkins Brown! Listen that sister right there, inspires me! She lived during this time. And actually in 1923 she got married. Look at this paper! It was clearly BIG News. If you’ve ever read about her (please do if you haven’t), you will realize it was challenging for her to run her school the way she desired and take care of her husband the way society at the time deemed she should. I won’t enable you taking responsibly and learning about her on your own, but this contract looking like it might be true!

When I was young I was surrounded by many Black Educators. I literally had three aunts who were the best educators. They inspired me. All three of them are no longer physically present. I often wish they were alive so I could gain wisdom from them during my awakening as an passionate educator. The powerful thing is I can still hear their voice. When I become frustrated with the battles in education, I speak to them. 

I remember my great aunt who attended “TC” as she affectionally called Winston-Salem State University, which was then called Teachers College, sharing with me her joy of teaching. I also remember at my other aunts funeral, her previous students and families, packed the church to show support and love. They even created a pond in her memory at the school she once worked. Both were married. One had side hustles. Both went above and beyond for ALL children. 

My great aunt always wore long skirts and dresses. My aunt always hosted outside of school events to teach about Black History and engage children in fun activities. Neither of them worried about the pay they received but simply focused on the children. 

This is what bothers me about the 1923 contract. What does any of that have to do with the core of education? If I wear bright colors, if I’m married, or want to hangout at the ice cream polar; what in the HELL does that have to do with me being an Authentically Dope Educator? Excuse the language, but I needed you to feel that! 

I’m grateful for the strides we’ve made in dismantling these rules for educators. When you begin to read history and even speak to older educators many of these things you read from this 1923 contract are true. Honestly, we as educators still feel like we can’t be our authentic selves in many instances. This doesn’t help build relationships with the students and families we serve. Educators and Teachers are human! I know we as educators are role models for many, we set the bar. The pressure of that is enough to keep us thinking before we act. My point is do our contracts currently still hinder us from being authentic? Many contracts are vague now and these policies are now in handbooks. 

My best friend is a male. He is an educator too. I’m divorced. I raise my daughter with the help of my family and my honey (my man). I love vibrant colors. I like short skirts and shorts (I don’t wear them in the classroom because it isn’t the place for it), and if my students and families see me at the grocery store or out they gone get ME! I like hanging out at the ice cream polar. My best friend who is an educator, owns one. Oh, every once in a while, I will dye my entire head honey blond. Who gone check me, with my kinky curls? I ride in the car with the love of my life and he brings me peace so don’t come for me or him! Meaning if we desire to leave town, we will without checking with the Board of trustees. We take walks and hangout downtown (well we did before the pandemic). 

Listen I’ve never fit into a box. I’ve always had my own drum set and honestly I’ve not beat it the way I wanted to, trying to honor what some have told me I should do. I’ve heard your hair is too big, your earrings are too big, your clothes are very bright, etc. Listen reality is oftentimes those things people have told me to “tone down” are often what helps build relationships in my classroom. The power of seeing someone who looks like home is powerful. The ability to make a connection is powerful. 

So I challenge each person reading this to read the handbook. If you are an educator read the staff handbook. If you are a student, read the student handbook. If you are a parent, read the school handbook. Look to see if the policies and procedures are in place for safety or power? It’s a thin line often but we’ve got to talk about it. I remember getting upset with the rules on shorts in a work environment because I have thick thighs and a number of Black women do. The rule only stated length. I still was told I needed to wear longer shirts. Did you tell everyone to wear longer shirts and I didn’t see that in the handbook. I’ve always been mindful of what I wear but this goes to show how the rules are differ based on body type. 

Read your contract. Read your Handbook. When you interview, be you. Wear the earrings, wear the bright colors, wear the hot pink pea coat!!! When you see a classroom/student family member while hangout down town, speak and show that you are real! Don’t hide! We’ve made many strides and somewhere in contracts we need to shift the mindset to what to do versus not to do.

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