Connecting The Community Through Education

One of the most critical underpinnings for teaching and learning is the connection you have with your students

I remember all of my teachers. They had such an impact on my life that I don’t think I will ever forget them. My sixth grade teacher, Mr. Locke, was great. He was challenging, but had a knack for making everything seem easy. 

My adolescent mind could barely digest our advanced reading class book list, however I don’t recall feeling overwhelmed by it. Mr. Locke introduced me to the works of Maya Angelou and Jack London. In class he nurtured our curiosity and made reading fun. The best part was Mr. Locke lived three houses down from me. 

On Friday nights in the summer, he would have these swanky pool parties. I remember peeking through his fence and watching tiki lights glisten off the wine glasses of his guests. I thought I carried a certain privilege because I was his neighbor. 

But Mr. Locke never treated me any differently than my classmates. His balance and fairness had a lasting impact on my view of academics. Through his strong pedagogical style, Mr. Locke modeled a type of professionalism that has influenced my role in education. Like him, I also teach in the neighborhood in which I reside. 

I am lucky to share a community with my students. We frequent the same YMCA, grocery stores, and subway stations. Having this type of connection fills me with appreciation and solidifies my commitment to education. 

My own story as an educator is filled with insecure firsts, heartfelt failures, and golden triumphs. Through these experiences I have learned that one of the most critical tenets that undergirds teaching and learning is the connection you have with your students. 

Thus I always strive to have open honest dialogues with them.  In this way I am available for critique and in a constant cycle of evaluating and restructuring.  Although these changes and shifts can be difficult, they do nothing but enhance and make my work relevant. 
Educational relevancy is a theme that I hope underscores this regular column.  At its core, this column endeavors to highlight educators in the Bedford Stuyvesant community. I aim to connect to a diverse set of public and private school teachers and professors, administrators, artist educators, researchers and evaluators who have chosen education as a way to encourage critical thinking, community stewardship, social equity, and creativity. 

I hope this column gives readers an opportunity to meet a contingent who actively is thinking about the cognitive development of a community.  Through classic interview format, I hope my discussions explores how the Bedford Stuyvesant community can shape educational trajectories. 

In addition, this column will examine how important policies affect educators and the lives of their students.  In the end an aim of this column is to feature reflective thinkers who are endeavoring to make differences in the lives of their students.
I am very excited about this column, and I hope you enjoy its addition to the dialogue on local education. 

I look forward to engaging this conversation!

Theresa August 12, 2012 at 05:00 PM
Thank you for writing this column and I look forward to checking back regularly. I am also e-mailing it to every teacher I know.
Joyce Beckles August 13, 2012 at 03:32 PM
I am currently a teacher at Young Scholars Academy in Bedford Stuyvesant, however I have been in the field of education for 20 years. I enjoyed reading this article, particularly the section about the importance of making connections with students. When I take the time to get to know my students on a personal level, it really pays off. I learn what their interests are and what motivates them. Most importantly, they feel free to share their thoughts and concerns with me. It makes for a very safe, nurturing and supportive learning environment. I'm looking forward to the start of a new school year.
JD August 14, 2012 at 06:28 PM
Love your voice. Brooklyn is lucky to have this perspective. I hope your sixth grade teacher Mr. Locke has the opportunity to read this and see the fruits of his labor and love of teaching.
Vanessa Mason August 14, 2012 at 09:42 PM
This was great Kersha! I remember all (ok almost lol) of my teachers, some more fondly than others but all have a place in my memory for something that they taugh me not matter how big the lesson. I don't remember ever thinking that I couldn't do something if I wanted to and that is directly linked to the teachers I had in my life never really making it an option to be less than my best, I never thought I was stupid and it never occurred to me that something might be out of my reach.The most wonderful thing about teachers (especially at the elementary level) is that they are able to give a child a separate world for 6 hours a day where 30 kids can be the smartest kids in the world who can do anything! Thanks again Kersha, I love the start of this column!
Kersha Smith August 16, 2012 at 03:13 PM
Hi Theresa, Thank you for spreading the word!
Kersha Smith August 16, 2012 at 03:17 PM
Hi Joyce, Thank you for the feedback. I hope you have a wonderful school year.
Kersha Smith August 16, 2012 at 04:44 PM
JD, I have lost contact with Mr. Locke, although I think about him often. Maybe this will be the impetus for our reconnection! Thank you for your kind words.
Kersha Smith August 16, 2012 at 04:46 PM
Thank you for sharing Vanessa! I love to hear about people's experiences with their teachers.
Louis deSalle August 20, 2012 at 05:35 PM
k., Thank you for your important message. "Educational relevancy"....so signficant a phrase. As a teacher myself I can't think of anything more important. What we teach must connect to how our students live their lives, so they can makes sense of their world and help others do the same. Thanks for starting the conversation. Louis deSalle


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