Dear Admissions Committee,
It is with the utmost enthusiasm and respect that I submit my application to The CUNY Graduate Center for admission to the Doctorate in Urban Education program
Dear Adelia’s commitment,
When I went away to SUNY Albany, I was determined to become a corporate lawyer. I was going to make the BIG BUCKS, pay off my student loans, buy a house, and then become a teacher because after all, there was no money in teaching. As I began to take classes- a business class here and an English class there, I found myself gravitating toward, exceling in, and easily enjoying the English courses. I thought, “Law schools like well-rounded students so I will major in Business and minor in English.” One day in economics, I turned in an assignment with formulas and everyone else turned in a written response. That was when I knew, follow your heart because following a dollar might make you flunk out of college. My mother would call and say, “You speak so well; you write so well. Just be a journalist.” But I didn’t want that dream either, I wanted to read and to write and to have other people fall in love with reading and writing on purpose. My dreams of the Big Bucks of corporate law were dashed as I began to talk to my advisor about why I even wanted to do corporate law in the first place, how I landed in Albany, how my love for writing and reading was obvious in my English GPA, and ultimately, how I was beginning to see me very differently. By the end of freshman year, I told people, “I’m a writer. I’m going to be a teacher.” To which they would always say, “I could see that.” And at 19, that’s what I had chosen to be and what chose me. But beyond the Big Bucks, my greatest influence which had opened me up first to the idea of law and government, then to becoming a lawyer, and ultimately, avoiding the Army and heading to Albany was a young Black female teacher who was my 9th grade law teacher and later my college advisor.
Hey Admissions committee,
My personal career interests have revolved around engaging students in the school community as a means to improve achievement. In doing this, I have taken a special interest in developing culturally responsive curriculum with reality pedagogy techniques and technology. It is through this that I have come to consider what is being taught and the importance of the mirror, window, and sliding glass door in educating children of color while also noting the absence or lack of representation of teachers of color. I have grappled back and forth with how education has been at the epicenter of all things good and bad in society. In considering the position of teachers as the catalysts for children to change the world, where have all of the teachers that look like the majority of the millions of students in public education gone? With research that supports the representation factor, the history of community control of schools in the 1960s, the economic implications on educational policy, and the most recent failed initiatives to employ teachers of color, I return to the system and the history of a country that has not just failed at designing inclusive curriculum but has failed at creating an inclusive space for teachers of color to support the children from their communities. In the five NYC schools I have worked in- 2 charter and 3 NYCDOE, I have often been one of the few minorities despite students that look like me being the majority. In these schools, I have also suffered from a lack of support in management, professional development, and instructional technique while working for white female administrators, and had it not been for my own personal will and persistence, I may not have been able to encourage or teach my students or stay in the profession at all. As a city and as a country, we must look back at what has and has not worked if we plan to disrupt the system of education that continuously enacts ethical violence against both children and teachers of color.
During my time at The City College of New York, I focused on Culturally Responsive Education with a project on the role of feedback for Multilingual Learners looking at both teacher and dynamic computer feedback. Through this project, I won first place for the education department at the Graduate Symposium and identified ways to best use technology for ENL students. Additionally, I was awarded the Dr. Joyce Coppin Leadership Scholarship for my research and growth within the program. As a graduate student, my interests continued to grow as I cogitated a PhD considering ways to impact outcomes achieved through the policies and the initiatives that this city develops every mayoral election with the same intention, yet, never affecting the desired change for underserved communities. Teachers of color still make up a small percentage of the entire teaching population which has also been an attempted change with new teacher preparation programs.
Sound Good Yet?
Back to you- my commitment,
Ms. Adkins is an important person in my journey as she was not just a teacher but she was me- my hopes and dreams not just personified but represented in a body not much different from mine. I never met a Ms. Adkins after her maybe until I was in my second Masters program and met Dr. Terri Watson. These women showed me, ME! While also showing me how important it is for me to see myself in spaces and places I hadn’t thought of before. By the time I was in my second round of Grad school, I had already begun teaching. I had already experienced girls that looked like me asking, “Yo miss, why you not wearing your hair no more?” and “You eat that?” pointing to my bacon, egg, and cheese- a hood delicacy with pork bacon. I had experienced kids wanting to have lunch with me and revealing that my class was the only class they actually took their time to do the work for or where they felt like they learned. Children taught me the beauty and the importance of my Blackness. They also reminded me of how important the demographic of the educators that have shaped my path has been. They made me remember how important I would be to their journey- to them wanting to teach and have a similar impact on other children that looked like us.
Oh but Admissions Committee,
Bell Hooks and Sonya Douglas Horsford both identified the shift and push out of black educators at the start of integration. However, since the setting of their research, in what many have called a post-racial time, why have black people not returned to the classroom? As discussed by Mark R. Warren and Karen L. Mapp, public education’s failure of children of color is the social justice issue of our time. While community organizing for school reform addresses the connectedness between the institution and the people within the community, it does not exactly address the issues that pervade a system that pushes out black educators and instead often focuses on the curriculum and the pedagogy without addressing the pedagogue. As a black educator who was also a black student in the NYCBOE, I have come to the realization that we cannot move forward without leaders, scholars, researchers, and historians willing to dig up the truth about what has landed us where we are. I know that with the support of the faculty at CUNY Graduate Center I can begin to unpack our past and our reactions to the things that have happened in order to make the waves toward an education whose policies amplify inclusivity of both students and teachers of color. Changes in public funding ultimately hurts the students that have the least- which I might hypothesize is one of the reasons there are less black teachers. I would also argue that learning about where New York Stood during the Civil Rights movement with neoliberalists pushing to integrate CUNY, to the racial dynamics of most American Cities and public education systems could lead me on the right path. The time for this work is now. In Shedd’s work, she describes students as typical “walking experiments”. This makes me wonder about integration as an experiment whose effects are seen in the pushout of black teachers also undoubtedly connected in some respect to austerity. If student’s perceptions of themselves are shaped by their environmental interaction, then what is to be said for students who have never experienced teachers that look like them? What does this interaction say to them or about them when it comes to being that change? I also wonder how many on the “wrong side of justice” are given the opportunity to go back to have an effect on the children that sit in the seats they once held? I expect to impact the ways that schools identify new teachers, support teachers of color, and create as well as encourage cogenerative learning opportunities. If people of color have a high commitment to education, equity, and opportunity, so where have all of the black teachers gone?
How you like me now?
With the Utmost Respect,