2009-Black History Month Celebration, ECC San Diego Continuing Education
Thinking back on the speech I made at ECC a few years ago during Black History Month, the celebration's theme "I am because you are" holds a special place in my lived experiences. It is a cultural phrase that places each individual within their community-past, present, and future. The phrase continues to remind me that for the past decade, and now as we enter the second decade of the twenty-first century, many teachers whose positive impact has helped shape our school phobic and intellectually challenged--as well as brightest and best-- have endured hardships to educate our children.Today, teachers face an increasingly bleak future. Budget cuts across America will most likely send many teachers into the private sector, too bruised to return to education when the economic crisis subsides. Years of training will be applied elsewhere. It is the other sector's gain. Teachers have a commendable arsenal of talents, and cultivated skills that can be adapted to multiple situations. The classroom is a space of adaptation and multi-tasking. It is also a place of caring, nurturing.
True, there are educators who do not present the field in a positive light. The substance of their nurturing and caring is problematic. However, I am thinking of teachers who dedicate their lives to helping others learn. The ones who sacrifice precious life hours so that students become aware of hidden potential and their human stewardship to contribute to a sustainable new world. May and June are traditional months in which high school and college students who have finished various courses of study celebrate the end. For some students, school was all joy, rainbows, and happiness. For some it has been a mixture of good and bad with few challenges outweighing the pleasant memories. For others, it was a tedious adventure. For all of these students, teachers played a vital role. So, a few thoughts. . .
To those students who glided through school without a crashing computer, personal illness, family illness or death, sleepless nights, a broken heart (or marriage), an identity crises, a constricting work/school schedule that no amount of planning seemed to relieve, I salute you. For students whose lives were, are, and will be forever disrupted from life's disrupting forces ripping and tripping their path towards completing their educational goals, I not only salute you, but I also offer empathy, a hug, and "remember where you started from" smile.
Many of you will leave the somewhat sheltered academic world and enter a less than healthy job market, a still vulnerable healing economy, hoping to find a place in a company where they can use your education. Sadly, many will have to settle for survival work-bills must be paid-hoping to find in the years ahead, a job in which you can utilize training, knowledge, skills, and fulfill personal dreams. Millions of graduates living seemingly mundane lives, millions of daily quiet contributions to balance life's circle in geometric repercussions. You are graduating with a High School diploma, the GED, a certification, the BA: your "formal" education is done. Consider this--keep a thirst for learning and critical thinking. You can still contribute to the betterment of humanity, our fellow terrestrians. Innovations spring from fertile creativity. Become a life long learner. Drink the waters of knowledge. Do not become a dehydrated "walking sleeper. "
The BA is just the on ramp level for those of you who plan to pursue additional degrees. Your everyday lives for the next several years include hours of scholarly reading, study, critical thinking, writing, real word internship applications, conferences, and presentations. Higher education costs. Pursuing a Master's or a PhD often means debt that takes years to resolve. Its expense eats up physical, material, and spiritual capital. One converts raw intellectual effort into a finished educational product--THE EXPERT. But a lesson is embedded in education's Philosopher's Stone. And if wise, at the end, you too will know how to change the common metal of your days into gold, to create "wealth" through making the world a better place for others, investing in humanity's future, putting education in its proper perspective.