Just Ask…

“Be Strong Enough To Stand Alone,

Smart Enough To Know When You Need Help.

And Brave Enough To Ask For It.

This quote, sent from the founders of Black Girls Run! to their members, stood out to me. True, it is one of those quotes that people like to pass around at the start of the new year – an attempt to motivate you to reset your life, to take a stand, and to be brave. Yet this quote is more than that, its about advocating for yourself, knowing when you need help, and asking for it – seemingly simple tasks, yet often difficult to do. Many of us do not like asking for help. I can rattle off some reasons why – it makes us seem weak, someone might think we don’t know what we are doing, we might look unprepared. The list can go on.

Yet when we teach we expect students to ask for help. We encourage them to do this on a daily basis. We write it under the “Areas of Growth” section on the progress report. We have individual conversations with students that end with, “Why didn’t you ask for help?” Yet we do not model the act of asking for help very well. Do students observe us asking each other for help? Do they know that we collaborate together to create a healthy and thriving environment for them? Do they know that asking for help only makes us braver, smarter, and more confident?

Maybe I am projecting my reflection on the Trinity community, or maybe there is someone who can identify with this. We are fortunate to be a part of a community that is resource rich and innovative. We have faculty and staff who are trained and experts in a variety of areas. Let’s capitalize on that by being brave, knowing when we need help, and asking for it. At Trinity, you only have to stand alone for a moment. There is always someone who is willing to help – especially if you ask.

Learner, Thinker, Writer: Javonne Stewart serves the Trinity School community as a 6th Grade Lead Teacher




Thoughts About Black History Month…

Every year when February approaches, I get this funny feeling. The feeling is difficult to describe. It’s kind of like a nervous, uneasy, anxious feeling…or kind of like an urgent, burning, and crucial feeling (if you can call these feelings). It never fails and as February approached this year, I felt the same way.

As a product of a mother who is very aware of both the plight of the African American community and the contributions they’ve made throughout history, I grew up knowing that to give back to my community was an expectation. And that in giving back to my community, I was, in fact, paying respect to and recognizing those who paved the way for me. So why do I feel apprehensive when February rolls around?

Well, the commitment I feel to sharing the accomplishments and the history of African Americans is a constant. I can sing the praises of my people to the world each and every day! 🙂 I do this throughout every unit I teach and many morning meetings that I lead. I work on affirming the identity of my own kids every day by reading books about people that look like them and passing down stories that were told to me by my family. For me, Black history is every day, and still yet I wholeheartedly appreciate the people who choose to share OUR many accomplishments during the month of February.

So thank you to the Media Specialists in the Learning Commons who showcased books and posted pictures of some very impressive African Americans throughout the Learning Commons. Thank you to the teachers in the Early Elementary Division who so creatively used brown paper to show important African Americans leaders. Thank you to the Music Department for sharing the greatness of Joplin with all those who walk to the dining hall. Thanks to the Diversity Committee for exposing our students to my history through Trinity Television. And thank you to everyone for being open to accepting and promoting diversity, in all its forms, in the classroom!

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

Connecting to Tradition

I have been going to church on Sundays since I can remember.  My grandmother was one of the first female deacons of Corinth Baptist Church in New York and my mother and her sisters sang in a gospel group that often traveled to churches around the south.  For me, going to church is an engrained tradition that speaks to who I am, how I live, and how I raise my boys.

Going to church also brings back fond memories of tasty Sunday dinners, soulful singing, Easter parts, and colorful hats.  Yes – colorful hats! As I sat in church this Sunday, an usher walked two elderly ladies down the aisle to their seats.  I noticed the elegance of both women, the way in which they walked gracefully down the aisle, the “sharp” way in which they were dressed, and the confidence they exuded.  Each woman wore a brightly colored hat (pink and blue) with a wide-brim that twisted festively to the side. I thought, “What a beautiful sight!” I also noticed how they were the only two women with hats.  See, “back in the day,” African American women always wore hats to church, a tradition that has been relegated to “hat-themed” bridal showers and women’s clubs.

It forced me think about the importance of tradition in a world that is rapidly changing.  Can we, as a society, balance both? I’m thinking that I can as I look forward to my 4 year old acting in his first Easter play and reciting his very first Easter part.  I think I might wear a “brightly colored hat with a wide-brim, festively twisted to the side”. My grandmother would be extremely proud J.

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.