From Public to Private: A Lesson Learned

Submitting a simple resume for a potential job switch turned into an anxiety-driven, life-changing event.  Should I leave a school where the students REALLY need me to move to a place where the kids have everything?  Will I be able to relate to the students?  How would they relate to me? I even thought, “Am I too Black for them?”

Being true to myself has always been a major part of my inner reflection.  Staying true to myself, I decided to approach the first day of school with an activity that I had done and seen done in many public school classrooms, the “Where I’m From” poem.  In true teacher fashion, I posted a model of my very own “Where I’m from” poem on the Promethean board.  It read like this:

“Where I’m From”

by Javonne Stewart

I am from hoop earrings, from Converse sneakers and baggy jeans.

I am from a hot summer’s night on the stoop in New York and from red South Carolina sand under my bare feet.

I am from both a Big Apple and from a Georgia Peach!

I am from the grape vine that twisted around my grandmother’s fence, the medicinal roots that she grew in her garden.

I am from Sunday dinners filled with fried chicken and macaroni cheese, from my father’s mother’s callaloo and my mother’s mother’s blackberry dumpling.

I am from strong African American women Rosa and her 4 sisters.

From my mother saying, “Don’t ever want what someone else has because you never know what you’re going to get.” And that teacher who called me, “Stupid.”

I am from a strong Baptist upbringing and a small Catholic school. I’m from “The Lord is my Shepherd” and “Walk by faith, not by sight.”

I’m from White Plains, New York where I was born, and Sumter, South Carolina where my mom calls home.

From the rough hands of a mother who worked three jobs; I am from the blood and tears of ancestors who paved the way for my success.

I am from America, from Africa, and from Jamaica all wrapped up in one.

I am from here now making waves so that my sons can know where they are from.

I showed this to them thinking that I knew all there was to know about myself, until that one hand went up and asked about callaloo and the teacher who called me stupid (they could not believe this!); or the kids who didn’t understand that you could attend Catholic school but have a Baptist upbringing.  As I explained these seemingly small representations of me, I realized that I not only had a lot to offer them, but that I would learn from them as well.  Still acclimating to a total new environment, I revel in the fact that I am a part of a community that reminds me, in a positive way, that I have more to learn about myself and that I can still have an impact on the world regardless of the environment.

Learner, Thinker, Writer:  Javonne Stewart serves Trinity School as a Sixth Grade Teacher.

7 thoughts on “From Public to Private: A Lesson Learned

  1. Powerful message, Javonne. But I think you left something out. You have a lot to offer the teachers here, too (myself included!). I’m a better teacher since meeting you, and you continue to bring so much energy, insight, and creativity to our team. Our Sixth Graders our lucky!

  2. Javonne, each person who enters a new environment has much to learn from their new place and the fortunate thing about new people is that they help us all grow and develop because they are new. I am happy that you are a part of us and that we are a part of you! I remember the day I walked into your classroom and saw this poem up on the board. I was impressed and knew that the students were in for a treat!

  3. What a wonderful lesson! I can’t image all the things I would learn about our students if every single one of them wrote this type of poem.

  4. Javonne, I enjoyed learning more about you through your poem! Beautifully written! I also made the move from public to private and I will never look back. We are both where we should be because we are here! I am sure we have some stories to share. I look forward to getting to know you better!

  5. Wow! May I go back to Sixth Grade and have you as my teacher? No wonder your students seem so happy this year!

  6. Javonne, I love your poem. I hear your voice and love getting a small glimpse into who you are. I am so glad you are a part of our team and look forward to learning more about you and from you, and hope you can learn from me. So glad you are here!

  7. Javonne, your poem is very powerful! I am so glad that you are apart of the Trinity community. It truly is an amazing place that encourages its members to continue to push themselves to grow. Your strengths and creativity as a teacher are needed and valued. I know your students, parents, and colleagues agree.

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