By Aiyah Moustafa
I always knew I wanted to be an English teacher. Throughout my years of schooling, I attended a predominantly Black and Latino district. Despite that fact, all of my English teachers were white, except for one. That odd one out, so to speak, was my senior year AP English teacher. She wasn't Black or Latina but an Arab, like me. Through her, I saw my future self finally actualized. I knew at the time that I would face an uphill battle answering the questions, “Why English?” and “Why a teacher?” and I knew that if she could do it, I could too. That senior year, my love for English multiplied not just because of the content, but because I knew that I would always have a place in the English classroom, even beyond 12th grade.
We know that students need teachers to look up to. We know that students need teachers that look like them. But as our demographics continue to rise across the state and as our teaching methods continue to become more inclusive of our students, we also need to consider how we can support ourselves: the few and far between. The rate of pre-service teacher drop-out is astronomical today. Add that to the limited number of teachers of color beyond year 3, and the chances of finding a teacher of color becomes a tall order. I cannot change the systemic issue that contributes to these statistics, but I know that I can help start a network where we don’t have to feel like the only one.
As a teacher of color, key moments stand out in my memory when I think back on my 5 years of teaching. I've been a part of private schools, Title 1 schools, privilege public schools, and within each of these institutions, my craft has been tested and honed.
As English teachers, our interests, backgrounds, and perspectives vary; and you will see a more immense variation between our challenges, successes, styles, and goals. There is no monolithic worldview or fix-all for any of our struggles but we can begin the conversation by building an empathetic connection within a safe community.
As educators, we know that our words carry a powerful weight. Come to this meeting prepared to personally connect with one another, grow together and empower ourselves. Our focus will be community building, emotional collaboration, and networking. Join us as we create a professional network to support our fellow educators and empower ourselves.