Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.Muhammed Ali
For the last few months, I’ve been asked a question. Whether it has been in interviews by non-educators or while looking for jobs, I’ve been asked “Why do you teach?” This is usually followed by an anecdote like “You must love kids.” While I might enjoy helping students develop their talents, this is definitely not the reason why I teach.
After my sophomore year of high school, I transferred from Banneker Academic High School to Parkdale High School. It was there that I was able to be under the tutelage of Mr. Thomas Vogeley. His class was the one that I looked forward to the most. IB European History was generally the highlight of my day. He didn’t lecture. He told stories. He painted pictures of historical events. Richelieu. Metternich. Charles Martel. My interest in history was fostered by being in his class.
It was during Mr. Vogeley’s class that I first encountered the idea of noblesse oblige. While the concept is not without it’s issues, I was intrigued by it nonetheless. Those that were privileged owed something to those that were not. There was a debt that existed that one could not quantify or qualify. A debt that would essentially exist as long as one was alive. Noblesse oblige made me reminsce on the good fortune I had been given and the debts that I have to pay going forward.
And I owed. The quality of my education was incredible. I attended Fort Lincoln Community School. This K-8 school had a planetarium, an indoor swimming pool, and open air classrooms. (I didn’t know that classrooms had walls and doors until I went to middle school.) The education I received from my kindergarten years until I was in sixth grade ensured that I would be prepared to do whatever I set my mind to. Mrs. Fobbs(K), Mrs. Riley (1st), Mr. White (2nd), Mrs. Colmar (3rd), Mrs. Jackson (4th), Ms. Summers (5th), and Mr. McCoy (6th) all demonstrated to me what great instruction and professionalism look in a classroom. Ms. Ray (science), Mrs. Hamilton (music), Mr. Tripp (PE), and Ms. Baer (art) allowed me to think actively and creatively.
After Fort Lincoln, I was privileged enough to attend Alice Deal Junior High School. It was in a different part of town and had high academic standards, but considering the level of education I was granted in elementary school, I was able to be gain admission. Ms. Alleyne (Latin), Ms. Rountree (science), Ms. Mostoller (social studies), Ms. Suarez (English), Ms. Powitz (pre-Algebra), Ms. Davis (PE), prepared me to be successful beyond my time in Ward 3 Washington, DC.
When it came time to apply to high school, I was able to gain admittance to Banneker. Mr. Nicholson (Social Studies), Mrs. Bennett (Spanish), Ms. Davis (English), Mr. Tyson (Chemistry), Ms. Berger (PE/Health) and Mr. Coleman (Algebra II-Trig) humbled me with their pedagogy and expectations. It was the first time that I faced adversity during my education and it was comforting to have instructors that wanted me to succeed.
It ain’t the kids
Ever since I began teaching 17 years ago, I knew why I was doing it. It wasn’t to “save” anyone. It wasn’t to change the world. Don’t be mistaken, I’ve loved learning with students and laughing with them. I’ve loved creating and encouraging students to use their imaginations to solve problems. I’ve reveled in seeing how students go on to be amazing citizens. However, this has never been my motivation to show up to work. I work because I was given the opportunity to learn from highly professional educators that poured their love of learning into me. I teach because I owe. I owe a debt that I won’t ever be able to repay. I encourages to innovate, to improve, and to hopefully make them proud.
NOBLESSE OBLIGE, Fam.