The Village

  • Why We Have to Let Our Babies Teach—A Lesson I Learned From Mr. Johns

    Sep 26, 2013. Written by Cheryl Curtis

    In reference to my recent attendance of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Inc.’s 43rd Annual Legislative Conference (ALC), I have returned to my community ready and eager to do the work I am purposely charged to do. The conference’s sessions fed my passion and evoked a sense of power within me. As a result of the conference, my body surges with energy as my mind pulsates with, in some instances, new-found knowledge and continued wherewithal to do what must be done.

    One session in particular, “Diversifying the Nation’s Teacher Workforce: Preparing Teachers to Teach Black Students and Preparing Black Students to Become Teachers,” taught me what I believe to be a valuable lesson. One of the panelist, David Johns, executive director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans, told the audience, “let the babies teach.” I would later confess to Mr. Johns that he had shamed me.

    You see, I was not encouraging our babies to teach. As Mr. Johns would so eloquently point out, who better to teach than those who have the passion and the talent to do so? By encouraging those who want to teach to teach, we insure that the best and the brightest occupy the profession from which all professions have a foundation.

    I guess I let the results of a previous session stand in the way of what I now know and understand to be true. It was not a session at the conference. It was what happened at the close of the legislative sessions in the state where I reside.

    I remember my days as a middle school math and science teacher. As I have always held the teaching profession in high regards, I held the students in high regards as well. I knew, that if what I had been told was true, these people were the future. There are even words to a popular song that says, “teach them well and let them lead the way…” So, with that as my charge, I embarked upon an approach that would facilitate the preparation of these people, our future, who would one day lead the way.

    What I find troubling is budget cuts that affect education and treat education as if it is not an investment in our future. Some shrug their heads and say, “I’m so glad I am not in education!” The question I would like to present is, do you believe in productive citizenry in which our economic and societal needs are met by viable candidates capable of supporting any and all businesses and industries? Let me ask that question, again another way. Do you believe that as a society, it is the responsibility of schools, parents, and the community to prepare our children, the future, to take their rightful place in this society?

    Some say, “I don’t have any children.” Some say, “my children are grown.” Some say, “my children don’t go to those schools.” There are even some, I’m going to say it again, who say, “I’m so glad that I am not in education!”

    We ARE all in education.

    If we believe the words of the African proverb, then we understand that it takes an entire village to raise a child. It takes an entire village to vote for the policies that will affect the change that will enable our society to treat education as an investment in our future. It takes a village to understand that if you live in a state where your vote, or any vote, is under threat of being suppressed, our futures are in danger. It takes a village to know that societies that hold education in high regard will inherit the title of Super Power. It takes a village to be that change that we want to see and the change that we want to be. We know that as the village, we ARE in education, regardless of our occupation.

    I live in a state where teacher tenure has been abolished, teacher pay has been cut, class sizes will be larger, and there will be no pay for teachers with advanced degrees. The legislation has ended its sessions and we are now waiting for the dust to settle. What will that mean for my state? What does that mean for the country? What does that mean to the teachers, schools, and parents who this will affect?

    I know that Mr. Johns is right—we have to let the babies teach. Sometimes, it is a hard thought to reconcile with all that is going on in this country. However, I cannot (and neither can you), give up now. Just as the theme for the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Inc.’s Annual Legislative Conference says, “It Starts With You.”