I have been writing ever since I can remember, but I was only writing for myself back then. I wrote for my enjoyment. I had to get those stories and feeling out of my head and onto paper in prose or poem.
Fast forward to today – by day, I’m an educator and by night (or early morning), I’m an education writer and garden blogger. People are beginning to notice what I write and it is opening up opportunities. One recent opportunity I had was being invited to the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) Convention in Detriot to be part of a panel. I was part of the panel The Importance of Educating our Black Children along with Wayfinder CEO Chris Stewart, InspireNOLA Public Charter School CEO Jamar McNeely, and NewSchools Venture Fund Managing Partner Dr. Deborah M. McGriff. The panel was moderated by NBC News Education Correspondent Rehema Ellis.
Before the panel began, I was sitting next to Rehema Ellis (you know trying to act normal and not ask stupid questions) and she wondered why I had flown into Detroit the night before and was flying out later that evening. I explained that I had to take off the sixth day of the school year to attend the conference, but my principal was supportive. Of course, that launched our table into a mini conversation about school start dates. I knew attending the NABJ conference was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up and I’m glad I took the personal day.
I felt indescribable joy as I interacted with people at the conference. Let me tell you, there is nothing like being surrounded, on all sides, by other black professionals. I’m not the best networker and I wasn’t even prepared to network. Immediately after the panel, several people took photos of me and they wanted my business card and I didn’t have any. My mind was solely focused on flying in, speaking during the panel, and flying out. Instead, many people gave me their cards and insisted I reach out to them and I did after I returned home.
One of the highlights was meeting Roland Martin. Earlier, he had interjected a question during a story I told when I was on the panel. Last week, I shared that story again and the question Roland Martin asked in my vlog, “Black with Kids: When Your Child’s Teacher is Afraid of You.”
Because of my writing, I have had the opportunity to elevate my voice on podcasts and panels and a few of my pieces have been picked up by other publications. I also wrote a viral piece that now has over a million views.
Now, the question I keep getting asked is how long I will keep doing both, being an educator and a writer. Right now, I don’t know. It is tough to do both especially since it does cause conflict at times. I only get two personal days a year, so I can’t take advantage of every writing opportunity nor can I cover stories that I really want to cover at times because I am at work. On the other hand, my day job informs my education writing and gives me credibility, not that being known someday as a former educator would take away my credibility, but there is a different kind of respect when you are in the day-to-day and you are writing about it.
The problem right now is that you have great journalists who write well but most have never been educators. I think some schools do a good job of stringing journalists along and not telling the real stories especially when it comes to students of color. I write to put those stories, both good and ugly, out there.
Although I am an English teacher by trade, I still think my writing could be better. I think of myself as a citizen journalist. The only way to get better is to keep on writing and stay on the grind. I will never stop writing, but realistically I know if my writing keeps moving in this direction I going to have to make it my sole focus. When that day comes, I think I will be okay with that and I am enjoying the opportunities my writing has brought to me.