by: Evan Taylor
Often times when we write and speak about teaching experiences or what served as the light to our path we forget the everyday people. As my student teaching drew to a close and as I now search for employment as an educator, I still reflect on an interaction I had last August with a woman I like to refer to as Miss Betty. When I think of Miss Betty, I think of the Palm Sunday narrative in which Jesus finds a mule and rides it into Jerusalem (John 12:14). This mule had no knowledge that Jesus of Nazareth would ride him/her into town that day or that people would lay palm leaves before him upon his triumphal entry. All the mule knew was to do what it was made to do: it was born, it did its work and that day it found itself in the right place at the right time. And by being in the right place at the right time, it was able to have a role in one of the best-selling books of all time.
This little donkey or burro was probably not seen important to anyone at that time or even during the moment, but now it serves as one of the most important figures in Bible history. If you do not believe that, then best believe that every time you see a picture of Jesus of Nazareth coming into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday you will see a picture of that burro. Just like no one knows exactly what Jesus looked like, neither do they know what that burro looked like. But that burro was important because of who it carried and where it was carrying that person to. In looking back at my student teaching experience, I see myself as a burro for the children, community and community members that I worked with throughout my teaching experience.
It all started with a conversation I had with Miss Betty at the bus stop the week before school started. I recorded the interaction via a Facebook post:
Facebook post from August 29, 2014:
Met an older woman at the bus stop today and we randomly began to engage in a conversation. she mentioned that she had a nephew who would have played with this years Jackie Robinson West team that won the National Championship. We looked around the Austin community from our view at the bus stop, and when I told her I was teaching out there she told me about how challenging it is to get kids to pay attention. We then went on to discuss what changes could be made in the community to bring the community back to a stage where we once were.
After that discussion, I looked Ms. Betty in the eye and told her that our people are gonna get our stuff together and everything will be alright.
And Ms. Betty looked at me, smiled and said “okay”…
After Miss Betty told me those words, I carried that responsibility to her and to the community with me throughout my student teaching experience at Spencer Technology Academy. When there were days that I felt that I wanted to give up I remembered Miss Betty’s words, the promise that I made to her and the children that I placed upon my back and how it was part of my responsibility to get them to where they needed to be.
Too often as teachers do we think that we are the saviors, but in actuality we are the burros that are meant to carry the saviors. Too often as teachers do we try to stand upright and end up hurting those who reside on our backs.Too often as teachers do we move too fast trying to get to a location sooner that we end up losing students along the journey. We as educators must realize that we are like the burro that carried Jesus into Jerusalem: we play a small role, yet our role is important. We must realize that our students can walk if they want to but we are there to make the journey a little easier for them. We must realize that we are not the saviors but the the burros. We are not heroes: we are the capemakers that remind students and communities of their hero status.
Tupac Shakur once said, “I am not saying that I’m going to change the world, but I guarantee I will spark the brain that will change the world”. As educators, we must be in love with our role as a spark, for a spark can ignite a world of change.
My name is Evan Taylor, I recently graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago with a major in Urban Education. I completed my student teaching at Spencer Technology Academy a school within Chicago’s west side community. I am the creator of many different mathematics curriculum that I have created for various STEM camps, but most of my lessons and curricula lean towards conversations around social justice. I LOVE TEACHING, I believe it is one of the gifts that God has given me to share with the world and to use to make the world a better place.