Warm-Up Question: What’s the most important thing for every urban student to know? Comment below this blog with your answer.
Teaching urban students, Black students, is my calling. I say this as certainly as I say my own name. It comes natural. When I taught high school, it wasn’t so much that I worked hard, though I did. I worked to engage my students. I planned out how to test what they knew, what questions to ask, what reading to assign, what video to watch, where to visit and who I could bring in. I loved my students and I really wanted them to learn and I really wanted to be the best. Being the best was my main agenda. I can be honest about that. I taught them to want the same. I don’t know if that was right or not, but I don’t know any other way.
Then I burned out. Not like a star exploding in the sky, more like a candle, slowly whittling away. It was public and I held my head high. Lord knows I gave it everything I had. And the Lord knew that it was time to move on. And so I mourned, I’m crying now as I type this, I don’t really know why. No, actually I do. I know it was God who sustained me, I know it was God who walked before me and I know the God I have seen in the schools.
I know God uses me still. I see what He is doing in my city and I’m so humbled to be apart. I’m so amazed at what people have come together. I’m amazed to see what people love, what people try, and what people never give up. I am honored to hear their stories and so I am sharing mine.
I love my people. I love my city, and I want us to be the best. I know love covers it all, my mistakes, my judgment, my haughtiness, my fear. I know it is love that keeps me going and I know it is love that I would die for. Love. I fell in love with being Black in the fifth grade and I never looked back. All because of a white lady who understood that she was white and understood that her students were Black and she respected where we came from. She taught us to do the same. And it was all real. And it was all love. And it all happened in the music room. Art. It could all be so simple, but of course it all isn’t.
If I had a magic wand, I would take all of the pain away. What hurts these kids hold inside. Lord, please stretch out the hand of Your healing. I was reading the Word earlier. Matthew something, Jesus was healing all of those in His path. I thought “dang, a lot of folks were sick back then, a lot of folks tormented by unclean spirits.” But as I write now I see that we are tormented just the same. Trauma incubated in our history, triple distilled in the now, and fermented in the shattered hope of a future.
But love is stronger still. And so I love even when it hurts and I cry for people I never knew and I cry for people who never knew themselves. I know the Lord hears our cries and I know He is moved by them. I know if we humble ourselves, He will heal the land and I so I will start. Lord, thank You for saving me. Thank You for loving me. Thank You even though I am mostly ungrateful, in a perpetual search for more even as I stand in the midst of treasures. I swim in love, eat it for breakfast, and sweat it back out. What more then should I want?
Banke Awopetu McCullough