Tuesday, February 12th, 2019 approximately 9:35 am in the children’s brightly colored library at the preschool I work for, the children sat row by row on the carpet in anticipation of what book the librarian would read to them this week. My heart leaped with joy as I realized that the book she chose to read in honor of Black History Month was an autobiography based on a true story of an African American girl named Mae Jemison.The book was entitled Mae Among The Stars by Roda Ahmed. A child instantaneously made the connection by looking at the cover that the book would be about an astronaut. The children silently and curiously listened intently to the story. Out of all the stories read in that library this one resonated with me the most as it triggered a painful memory that I remember vividly to this day as if it happened yesterday.
Nonetheless, the children’s book detailed the story of Mae being one of the few black girls if not the only one, in her kindergarten class. Mae had a passion for star trek and knew as early as kindergarten age that she wanted to be an astronaut. When her teacher who happened to be white asked the children what their dreams were each child boldly stated their dreams. However when it was Mae’s turn and she said she wanted to be an astronaut the children laughed. To add insult to the injury her teacher corrected her and asked: “Don’t you mean a nurse?” a crushed kindergartener went home and told her mother the encounter and her mother reinforced her daughter’s dream by reassuring her that she can be whatever she wanted to be. The story concluded with an excited librarian sharing with the children how Mae Jemison fulfilled her dream by becoming the first African American woman to travel in space and become a NASA astronaut. She also fulfilled her lifelong dream of becoming a dancer as well as a Doctor. As the children hurried off noisily to the tables eager to grab books off of the roundtables and bookshelves, I could not help but to continuously think about the story throughout the duration of the day.
The story brought me back to when I was in middle school and the encounter that I had with my teacher who happened to be white. At the time I had been taken out of the class for reasons unbeknownst to me at the time. Considering I was a problem child more than likely it was because I was disrupting the class. As I was being reprimanded this frustrated teacher by chance happened to ask me “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I confidently and boldly stated the childhood dream that had been embedded within my DNA as early as elementary school. I boldly and confidently without hesitation stated “I’m going to be a teacher when I grow up,” Instead of being met with praise and affirmation I was met with a sarcastic laugh of doubt and disbelief. No words of reinforcement, validation or even giving me words of encouragement that would encourage me to follow my dreams. My heart was crushed that day as I tried to rationalize and ponder upon the reasoning behind why my teacher out of all people did not believe in me or my dream. Was it because I was one of the few black children in my class? Was it because I was a problem child? Was it simply because she was having a bad day? Or was it because she had not been educated on how to deal with black children who demonstrated behavioral problems? I will never know the answer to that question. But I have learned to love people and give the benefit of the doubt. As I write and reminisce on the situation I do not believe that it was her intentions to bring about harm, even though that is what ultimately ended up happening. Although I forgive her wholeheartedly and sincerely I realize that this incident as well as many more to come really created a fervency to fulfill my dreams and do what others doubted I could not do.
I experienced this overwhelming conviction that continued throughout the day as a result of reflecting on the story in the library and how much it really resonated with my own. Although I have yet to reach my fullest potential and have yet to fulfill the many dreams that I have inside of me I write as an educator today. The educator that my middle school teacher doubted that I will become. (Dream fulfilled) I also write as a children’s author of not just one but two children’s books with many more in the works(Dream fulfilled) continue, reading will post them below.
I want to challenge educators today as I continue to challenge myself because I have not yet arrived at a place of perfection as an educator, nor will I ever but I am willing to continue learning and growing. Each school year presents new children with new sets of challenges. Look out for the Mae Jemison’s in your class. We can say something in seconds to a child out of frustration but the impact will last a lifetime, be careful what you say. We all were created with dreams on the inside of us. Children have an understanding of their dreams at an early age. It is our job as educators to take the seed of potential planted inside the students and as gardeners nurture, water, and feed their dreams causing them to grow. When children bring their dreams before you or the class take time to listen, validate and reinforce their dreams do not doubt them, as dreams are not meant to be doubted but to be believed. Years later you will be glad you did.
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Feel free to check out these two children’s book written by me!
Coming Soon! 2019
This book is designed for children ages 3 and up. This book teaches children the values of embracing and loving their skin color as well as embracing and loving the skin colors of others. This book also teaches children from a place of inclusiveness to embrace skin colors or conditions that may appear to be different such as children with Albinism, children with skin disorders and children with freckles. Nonetheless, it reinforces how much we are the same on the inside.
No More Bad Secrets is a kid- to kid- guide on Safe Body Touch
Using a simple direct and age-appropriate approach it teaches children a variety of topics such as:
- The difference between good and bad secrets
- Who to turn to for help if they are keeping a bad secret
- The difference between an appropriate and inappropriate touch
Designed for ages 4 and up you can rest assured that concerned Parents, Caretakers, and Educators can approach this topic with ease. Children would be able to receive guidance that they can understand, practice and put to use.
Book Available Now!