“I touch the future. I teach.”
One of the proudest days of my life was my first official day as a teacher. Since I was born, I felt as though the profession flowed naturally through my veins. My great-great grandmother (whose last teacher’s contract is proudly displayed in office, along with my mother’s and my own) set the standard in my family. Her influence was renowned, not only through Hinds County but also in our family. All of her children, grand children, great and great-great grandchildren take pride in the fact that they followed in her footsteps.
The task of being able to influence the minds of young people that are eager (and sometimes admittedly not so eager) to learn is a powerful gift. It is a responsibility that most of us do not take lightly. So imagine our outrage upon reading that rappers, Nicki Minaj and Lil’ Wayne were recently selected by the South Florida-based Better Education Place (BEP) as the recipients for their “Teacher of the Year” awards.
To many, to bestow such a distinguished title upon entertainers that use vulgar lyrics and more importantly – whose influence may not always lead to a positive impact in the community – is offensive to those who spend their days overworked, underpaid, over criticized and under recognized. For the BEP to simplify their rationale by explaining that their choice of Nicki and Wayne was due to their popularity and that they are “teaching them better — in many cases — than teachers in the classrooms” was discouraging to some and infuriating to most.
While I do concede the backwards point the BEP was attempting to make, I find it disheartening that once again, my profession has been reduced to a popularity contest. Anyone can influence a child, but a TEACHER facilitates, fosters and inspires learning. A true teacher is not a passing fad and doesn’t have to use the latest gimmick
despite what some educational reformers would have you believe. The very best and even sometimes the very worst of those of us in education, have had some major impact on how a child develops into an adult learner.