Warm-Up Question: Is it important for Black students to have Black teachers? Comment below the blog with your answer.

So I’m literally humming Usher’s “My Way” as I write this. I took a big lump when I first started out as project manager for the Rochester City School District’s code of conduct. Like the description reads, these blogs are just snapshots from my daily experiences. The goal is to share my story to inspire you. So let me tell you what had happened: (a little urban vernacular. We get all types of people in the teacher’s lounge, so I have to translate from time to time).

In the beginning of my contract (my very first as an education consultant), I was in a very important meeting with the Superintendent’s cabinet, and school chiefs, and passionate people who are propelling various school improvement initiatives. I marveled to myself at the very corporate tone and format of the meeting. I mean I’m all for data and analytics, but when we’re discussing best educational practices, shouldn’t the meeting be in the format of those best practices? So I’m listening as parents, administrators, and teachers box their passion in to meet “professional” constraints. Then the deputy superintendent got up to close the meeting (thank God, we had been listening to powerpoint presentations for over three hours) and she calls me up to speak about the code of conduct. Uh, say what? So I got up and what did I do? Adopt the same airs as everyone who spoke before. Of course it was articulate, but it was watered down, contrived. My stomach was in knots afterwards even as everyone slapped me on the back (figuratively of course. I didn’t switch up that much).

Thankfully, the Holy Spirit checked me the next morning. “I gave you that position. I don’t care who is in the room, Ph.D or G.E.D. you do what I put you there for. Tell your story. That’s why I gave it to you.” So I repeated “tell my story” over and over and bumped J. Cole’s “January 28th”until I remembered myself.

See, I’m a consultant in title; but really I’m a teacher, a Black teacher who is believes that education is the most powerful weapon mounted against my people and the only weapon that can truly free us. I’m an author and I hope that my debut novel, ALWAYS WANT MORE, conveys that message as well. I’ve seen a lot, both as an urban student and teacher, and I have a loving quirky way that reaches people. It’s my story, my love, that will contribute to school reform efforts, not how well I can pontificate on theory and convince people of my intelligence.

Later that day, I led my first meeting as project manager. The deputy superintendent, administrators, teachers, sentries, police officers who are stationed in schools, school psychologists, and parents were there. I ran it the way I believe every classroom should be ran. It was interactive, love-filled, relaxed, and probing. No knots afterwards. I shared my story and others did too. The foundation for this very important work was laid.

Remember, you were made for such a time as this. There’s a place, a position, a promotion that God has just for you. Not for the light, filtered version of yourself. No, where you are going requires the full you; the sum of your passions and experiences. Walk in that.

I’ll be doing the same. I realize that my role in Rochester’s school reform is not just that as an educator, but also as a writer. I am blown away by the absolutely amazing people who have come together. I’m going to start writing about them. Who better than me to tell these stories? Stay tuned…

Banke Awopetu-McCullough



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