The following is the text of a speech given by Darein C. Spann at the It All Starts with Education Forum , which was held in July in Jackson, MS. The event was organized by MS Representative Jay Hughes. Several teachers were invited to give TedX-style power speeches to the audience of several hundred educators and public education supporters. These are Darein’s words.
WE ARE THE ONES WE HAVE BEEN WAITING FOR!!!!
When I say we, I am referring to you and me—teachers here this afternoon.
We are the teachers who get up early every morning with one goal in mind: Making the lives of students better.
We are the teachers who work tirelessly throughout the day constantly in and out of ourselves because no one day is ever the same.
We are the teachers who stay late after school tutoring, attending programs, coaching, supervising dances, only to realize on Friday how tired our bodies are.
SO WITH THAT SAME TENACITY
WITH THAT SAME DEDICATION
WITH THAT SAME INITIATIVE
We have to be those same teachers to stand up and use our voices for our profession.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Our lives end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
I know some are afraid of the repercussions from having a voice. But, the truth of the matter is if we don’t, then who will?
Who will speak for the student who has anxiety every time a test is put before him or her and you know he or she knows the material?
Who will speak for the student who has a desire to play a sport or become an artist or musician but the fine arts and extracurricular activities are cut?
THIS IS OUR PROFESSION.
THESE ARE OUR STUDENTS.
We work day in and day out with each of them. We spend countless hours with them. We learn their mannerisms. We learn what they love. We learn how much they can handle. And truth be told, they love us back.
I want to tell you a quick story about why I do what I do daily.
About 30 years ago, there was a little boy who was awakened by his aunt after Santa Claus had come. This little boy also had his brother and cousin there as well. When the three of them walked into the living room of their grandparent’s home, wiping sleep out of their eyes, their aunt pointed out gifts that Santa Claus had left for both his brother and his cousin.
She then turned to that little boy and told him that Santa didn’t leave him anything. Can you imagine how heartbroken that little boy must have been? He went back to bed crying only to wake up again still with nothing. Well, that little boy was me!
I reflect on that story every time my students enter my classroom. Unlike what happened to me, I make sure my students DO NOT EVER come into my classroom and feel like they can’t complete an assignment or do their best because someone failed to make sure they had what was due to them.
“Teaching is not what I do, but who I am.” (Dr. Jill Biden)
THIS IS WHY I SPEAK UP.
THIS IS WHY I SPEAK LOUDLY.
THIS IS WHY I ADVOCATE FOR THIS PROFESSION.
I want every child to have a sense that despite situations, things can change.
Lastly, I don’t want to tell you to use your voice without giving you a strategy to help you get started. I attended a workshop with the National Education Association, where they taught us to tell the story of self. Quoting from some of the information:
“Every one of us has a compelling story of self to tell. We all have people in our lives (Parents, Grandparents, Teachers, Friends, Colleagues, or Characters we love) who’s stories influence our own values. The key focus is on our choices. Those moments in our lives when our values moved us to act in the face of challenges. The power in your story of self is to reveal something of those moments that were deeply meaningful to you in shaping your life- Not your deepest, most private secrets, but the events that shaped your public life. Learning to tell a good story of self demands the courage of introspection and of sharing some of what you find.
I challenge each of you to find your voice. When you find your voice, find others who share the same sentiments and collectively begin using your voices to help those who depend on you daily!
AT THIS TIME IN OUR STATE,
OUR VOICES HAVE TO BE CONSISTENT
OUR VOICES HAVE TO BE LOUD
OUR VOICES HAVE TO STRONG
OUR VOICES HAVE TO BE UNITED
This is the ONLY way, and I mean THE ONLY WAY, people will listen to us, and we can get things changed.
Remember Nietzsche said, “He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.”
Go forth teachers and speak up for all of us, so our students can be the best they can be!
WE ARE THE ONES WE HAVE BEEN WAITING FOR!
DAREIN C. SPANN is an educator. His views are his own and do not represent the views of any other entity.