A Trailblazing Teacher and Finding #GirlPower

My 7th grade English teacher was nothing like any of my previous teachers. He threw lemon heads at us when we had a correct or interesting answer. He rearranged the desks weekly, so we never really knew what to expect when we walked in the room and he readily admitted that each arrangement was an experiment. He used phrases like “Too bomb!” when we engaged in class discussions.

I think of him now as a trailblazer. He was teaching in a lower socioeconomic, urban school. The school district still had senior picture galleries from when the district was segregated and it had separate entrances for men and women, though in label only. There were three distinct neighborhoods separated mostly by race. Racial tensions were real, though I didn’t fully understand any of that when I was younger, which is horrifying and embarrassing.

Our school was small, with only about 20 students per graduating class. Most of our parents had not gone to college and many of us doubted that we would ever attend or finish college. We were children of hard workers who had made a living with a high school diploma. The job market was changing and none of us really knew what to do with that. Yet, this teacher treated us like people who could think and imagine. He treated us like students who controlled their future.

It was in this English class that I first understood a metaphor and actually analyzed literature. I won’t pretend that my life drastically changed that day, but the seeds were planted. I loved the feeling of finding a secret answer in literature; an answer that others might see, but maybe not in the same way. It gave me a sense of power. #girlpower

Power can be a dangerous thing. I’m not talking about a steamrolling power that comes from money or position. The kind of power I found comes from inside; it is a power that can be found, but not granted. People can be threatened by those who embrace this power and, as a result, often try to derail their efforts. But that’s no reason to turn your back on moments or even glimpses of power.  

My teacher gave me courage to find my power. I have, at times, shied away from it and suffered because I embraced it, but I’ll never regret finding it. #strongwoman