I love to write and I write all of the time — short stories, poems, plays for church, and blog posts for my garden website and my church’s dfree ministry, but I have never written about my work in education.
Almost two years ago, I received an email from Teach Plus about an event they were having about storytelling. I thought it was a perfect learning opportunity for me, an avid writer. I learned how telling the right story could leverage change. I was challenged to reflect upon why I was an educator and how I could use my story for change. I left the workshop believing I had a story to tell, but I was not sure if my story would have any impact. Even though I had doubts, I decided to write my story and it stayed saved on my computer among my other pieces of writing.
This April, Patrick McAlister, Director of Policy for Teach Plus Indianapolis, suggested I submit the op-ed I wrote to the Indianapolis Recorder, a news publication focusing on African Americans. After making some updates, I submitted it with no expectations of my work being published. Victoria T. Davis, Newsroom Manager for the Indianapolis Recorder, emailed me and told me I had written a good story, but they were tight on space. After receiving this correspondence, I believed it was the end of the road for my piece. A few days later, I saw a notification on my phone from Facebook. My husband’s best friend’s girlfriend had tagged me in a post. When I went to Facebook to check the notification, I was pleasantly surprised to discover it was my op-ed, “Why I Do This Work.” I immediately emailed Patrick to let him know my article was online. What followed was surprising to me. People, some I knew and some I did not, appreciated my story and was glad I shared it. Then, other people continued to share my piece. Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS), where I am employed, included a link to my article in their weekly newsletter. Teach Plus included a link in their weekly newsblast. My article was shared several times on social media, even by Dr. Ferebee, Superintendent of IPS.
Although I have no problem speaking in front of a class full of K-12 students or adults at IUPUI, I am an introvert. The extra attention from the sharing of my work put the spotlight on me and people wanted to know more about my professional career in education and my thoughts on educational issues.
Just as the spotlight on me began to fade, the following week Chalkbeat Indiana published a story about me in their, “What’s your education story?” series. Reporter, Dylan McCoy, wrote a wonderful piece, “My story: ‘Even though I didn’t see my dad except on Saturdays…I felt his presence’” about me. I’m glad my education story shined a light on how hard my father worked to ensure my sisters and I took our education seriously. There are too many stories about absentee black fathers and not enough about the ones who are present. My parents’ persistence and encouragement directly influenced my decision to become an educator.
I love writing and I am going to continue to write, but now I believe my story is worth sharing; it’s worth telling. If you are interested in learning how to tell your story, you can attend the upcoming Teach Plus event, Storytelling for Impact, on May 25th at 5:30.