I got to hear Jeff Andrade speak in person once while teaching at a high school in East Oakland two years ago. There have been times when I forgot his exact name but I never forgot how “challenging” and “intelligent” his ideas were in terms of teaching children of color. After a rough day of failing, making some small strides, and failing again in teaching “something”I think every single teacher has had the feeling that they are “getting no where” or “this isn’t working”. And on the flip side , they must also feel “I got their attention”, or even better “they got my attention”. Some kind of dialogue/exchange over forcing them to “hear” you. Deep.
I started teaching in 2002 I believe. As a volunteer first, then as a paid instructor. It was two of my high school teachers, Mr. Hodari Davis and Ms Julia Luna that gave me my first shot. I haven’t really stopped teaching since then, I’ve taken breaks though. I’ve taught all over the Bay Area (Richmond, Pinole, Berkeley, Oakland, SF, Palo Alto, San Rafael)and when i moved to Brooklyn NY I had the chance to teach in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens. Working with Trust Your Struggle (amazing educators/artists) Ive done workshops in other states too like Connecticut, Massachusetts, Arizona, and more I’m forgetting.
I’ve worked with small classes and small organizations, and huge classrooms and huge organizations. All different races and ages. Beautiful classrooms and stuffy basements. Thousands of kids, so many lessons learned from each of them. All the energy, frustration, curiosity,rebelliousness, slang, and wisdom they give when you share time with them has made me who I am. Its made me a better artist, a better man, and a better father. Don’t get me wrong there have been some kids I’ve had to exercise super patience with. But those were usually the ones who needed to feel acceptance and love the most.
In the past two years I’ve pulled back from teaching greatly.I’ve worked with some really great teachers, artists, and coordinators.But none of them could mask the feeling that I was not reaching my students. There are times when I wished I could take my kids out of the school completely. Sometimes the system in which we as educators are working in is archaic, brutal, toxic, and poisonous. The kids are hyper intelligent, and they sense it. Sometimes I get the feeling that they’ve seen me the same way I see the system of public education. One which used to have countless classes in cooking, musical instrumentation, and art. All of them were gutted, cut, or eliminated from East Oakland to the South Bronx. Why? When you take away a human’s ability to express themselves a whole array of shit happens to them psychologically and culturally. Mix that with outright lies about our history and who we are, and you’ve got a bomb ready to explode.
Anyway, I won’t go into a deep discussion about the factory of public education or how the US Government views its working class, poor, shit even some middle class people. It’s a forever changing puzzle. Sometimes obvious, and completely mind boggling at others. What i will say is this. After turning down several offers to teach last year, I’m taking up my dry erase marker and hand written agenda’s again. Not only that, I would like to work with some educators who are down to flip the script. Check out some of these memories from teaching the babies, mine and yours. Much respect to all the educators out there. Don’t matter if you wear sneakers or a tie, you are touching someone’s life when you teach what you know, and allow them to do the same to you. Love and light.