Welcome to the first KCTE Spotlight post! We will be highlighting members and their students monthly. Please submit any stories for consideration to: https://kcte.submittable.com/submit/68620/kcte-spotlight-stories
For the month of October 2016, we’d like to share a story from our KY Department of Education Liaison, Kelly Clark. Kelly serves on the KCTE Board and continues to support our work through her position. Here’s her story:
When I was a young teacher, I never even knew about positions of power and privilege. I just knew the way I was raised as a white middle class girl in the South meant that academic excellence lead you directly to a path of a stable and “educated” life. That is what I had done and now I was teaching at LTMS in the heart of Lexington and I was going to emulate this and pass this torch onto my 8th grade students. They didn’t want that torch, they didn’t listen when I extolled the virtues of hard work and finer qualities of literature –Shakespeare held no magic or interest for them. For some of them, 8th grade would be the pinnacle of their school career and graduation was a rite of passage into adulthood.
So I struggled and preached and they just did their best to ignore me until one day when right after announcements, the TVs stayed on and we watched as two towers fell, planes dropped from the sky and America cried. My students weren’t even watching the screens- talking and braiding each other’s hair and tapping the desks with pencils and rapping. I think I was furious at the lack of respect, the obliviousness in the face of carnage; it was callous and clearly I thought they didn’t understand that the death on the screen was real. Death was real and imminent.
After I stopped yelling at them they just looked at me and one of them, a girl said “Mrs. Seale, we out there dying every day and nobody cares about us- what do I care about those people in New York when people right here look away and we dying.”
After that I got it. That my world was not their world and my role was not to dispense and mold but instead help each student feel valued and empowered in the skins and lives they inhabit. My values were conditions of a position of power and stability, of color and privilege. I changed that year from a teacher who wanted order and discipline to a teacher who wanted authentic learning and respect built on shared experiences. My classroom became my social laboratory and the learning and bonds went beyond anything I learned in my education classes. My next six years at LTMS helped me learn that lesson over and over.