The Lives That Chose Us (2020 Year-In-Review)
Mid-September saw me knee deep in readings
Mid-September saw me knee deep in readings. One for each of the classes I had taken this year. These readings were a mix of dead white men (think Durkheim and Marx), as well as black women (think Marx, Durkheim, et. et. al. The history of education was so compelling, that I could for a while isolate the words from the specter death, fascism and impending doom. A pandemic that decimated the lives of thousands across the globe caused a global pandemic. We had already killed over 200,000 people. The Trump administration and the United States government preferred to do nothing to prevent these deaths, while the figurehead played white golf balls and blow horns endlessly. The government across the country increased inequity and left basic survival to food banks, charity, and hopeful appearances on daily news programs. While businesses were closed temporarily or permanently, citizens continued to keep their masks on in disbelief at the possibility that science, and not conspiracy theorists, might be able to save us from this.
Schools also opened and closed. Because we didn't have a clear plan, there was much fighting. For the first time in fifteen years, I was not included as a staff member at the reopening schools. So I began to read.
My studies have revealed a few themes. The most prevalent was the idea that our choices are pre-made. This is our life. There was evidence that this was true in 2020. I could not have chosen the sorrow and tragedies that were happening around me. The ten sirens that blared outside my apartment, the colleagues and peer who died for just breathing in their work air, the students who remained on our virtual classrooms as their parents, cousins and friends perished.
All is not lost. However, nothing is lost if we are able to recognize the effort required to win.
I was able to let go of parts of myself that didn't serve my purpose this year. I created YouTube videos and Instagram Lives to help my students and the community learn mathematics from me. EduColor was reorganized to better meet the needs of our time. We were told that we could not be better just a few months ago. This year I was more open to building deeper friendships and mentoring others. I also did more writing and speaking than I had in years. I also did more web design work. I am a member of the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards. Before we took face-to face for granted, I was able to tell Elizabeth Warren & Julian Castro how much they were appreciated in Brooklyn.
Instead of teaching Heights students, I am now reading and writing research with my students.
Wendy fought bravely against cancer, and only lost her time. Rameer and did not get to meet but he was a brother in the Blackest of ways. My fandom and that of my students spanned Kobe's entire career. John organized to try and defeat more visceral racism by ballot. Chadwick made pride in one of the core principles of his work. Erika was my first love. Jas captured each room she entered. Every time Bill speaks, it is a celebration, mourning, or romance. Daniel rhymed with great ease. He only revealed that he had passed two months later than he did. Vicente is a great host and makes some of my favorite burritos.
COVID did not take them all, but it took this life. They were all my children and I would not have given them up for the world.
I was asked to be grateful for what I had been given. Because in a moment, my life and all its accouterments might be taken from me. I come from the hood. This is not a new concept. My family is still here. I have the opportunity to learn, write, and push our narrative in times that I didn't have back when I was a full time classroom teacher. I still have to pay rent, buy groceries, cook breakfast almost every day. I find ways to believe and communicate with people via video, text and e-mail. I still hope that we will all meet face-to-face, and that we would learn as much as possible from an era that aims to tear down every wall we call "society."
Columbia University is where I am studying, and I have 15 years of experience teaching in the same neighborhood that I grew up. My child goes to the schools that I want fully funded. With my elder and new ancestors, I am closer to the greatness people saw in me. Although I may not be the Secretary of Education that you thought I would be, I am in a position where I can love and lead like I haven’t been in many years.
If I had a choice, the life that I have now would be closer to it. Hope.