By: Evan Taylor
There is an African proverb that states that, “a family tie is like a tree, it can bend but it cannot break”. In my classroom experience this past year, I found a family tie with my students and with my mentor. A relationship that is often talked about in books and theories, but words have no comparison to action. Twenty-seven plus students have entered and exited out of room 112 this past year and each one has become a member of the room 112 family (or 112 squad as my students would call it). Within the classroom walls exists a family structure where each person is responsible for the other. No one person in the classroom is an island, no one person has to even worry about defending themselves when they are outside of the sanctity of the walls of the house. Some could say that when many of us leave home to go to school, it is more like leaving home to go home. But this familial bond was formed over time and was not a simple process.
I vividly recall in the opening days of the school year many students had issues with being in such close proximity to each other and many had run-ins with each other out of frustration either with themselves or with others within the family. But many of these students found that within the classroom, no one was going to allow them to make a decision that would hurt them or others within the family. Many found that in other classrooms they would be put out for their behavior or suspended, but in our family we talked things out and got to the root of the issue and had it resolved. As a family we had to find each other’s way of coping with frustration, anger, sadness, joy, awkwardness and many other emotions so that we could create a family space where every person could feel safe to be who they are. My mentor and I gave up many prep periods and minutes of lunch to sit and talk with students to let them understand that we were there for them and that we were doing all that we could to help them be successful, but they had to want to be successful for themselves. These conversations and moments proved to be as important, if not more important, than any test prep or other materials that were taught. These conversations led to bonds in which we as a family grew closer to each other.
As my time drew to an end and I began to reflect on my student teaching experience, I found that I had not grown into the typical teacher mold, but that I had rather grown into a more mature family man. As the time drew to an end, I found that many students saw me not as merely a teacher, but as an older brother who was always looking out for them. That is a fact that I can hang my hat on, for there is no greater feeling than being seen as a family member to 27+ kids who I have grown to love and admire. For I know that each and everyone of them will continue to be successful and will continue to do amazing things…which means that one day this big brother will be collecting some checks from his intelligent little brothers and sisters!
I would like to close with an excerpt of a letter to my 112 family:
It has been my privilege and honor to work with you all to learn from you all as well. I think I may have learned more from you all than you did from me! I have NO DOUBT that you all will go on to do great things, things better than me, better than Mr. McWade, better than your parents. You all are going to do awesome things. I cannot wait to see the amazing things that each and everyone of you is going to do in the future whether it be being an athlete, a writer, a beauty shop owner, a dancer, a YouTube vlogger, a barber, a sports agent, a designer, an author, an actor, a teacher or whatever you all decide to be. Just know that you never have to settle and that the world is yours and you can be whatever you want to be and you can go wherever you want to go. I challenge you all to travel the world, to meet people who look nothing like you, to learn a new language, to help others who need help and to be the leaders that we know that you can be. Make yourself proud to be you and to know you! Make sure you always remember to take care of your family and to always look out for them and your friends. And always remember that if you become very successful and rich to remember to give me and Mr. McWade some money because teachers need money too!
My name is Evan Taylor, I am a graduating senior at the University of Illinois at Chicago majoring 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.