I felt like I was abandoning the black inner city kids in Chester, PA. I had spent the first 5 years of my teaching career in schools that were predominately African American and I believed my biggest impact would be working with students who looked like me, talked like me, and acted like me.
However, in the summer of 2011, I faced the possibility of being furloughed in Chester and was offered a job in the suburbs. I struggled with what to do and turned to my Father for advice. His words not only helped my decision but still guide me today.
“Allyn, Lord knows we need all the black teachers we can get in Chester and other neighborhoods around the U.S. However, you don’t think they need black teachers in suburban districts? You don’t think that the same way you serve as a role model to black boys in Chester that you wouldn’t serve as a model to White, Asian, Indian, Mexican and every other type of kid in Downingtown? I’m sure there are some African American students at this school. Don’t you think they would value having a face in the building that looks like them? Allyn, don’t assume you know where you will have the most impact. Let God place you where he wants you to be. Where he can use you best.”
In Chester, I felt like Joe Clark from “Lean on Me” but accepted the job in Downingtown with worries of becoming “The Substitute” from Key and Peel.
7 years later, my experiences have shown the error in my thinking. Last week, I ran into a former student and player from several years ago. I asked him about his upcoming graduation plans and he informed of his acceptance into college and desire to become a teacher. According to him, he wanted to be like his favorite teacher “Mr. Bacchus”. I was flattered and thought back to the summer of 2011. There I was, thinking I could only impact one group of students and was now being told by someone who didn’t look like me, that he wanted to be like me. I never would have predicted this exchange and others like it happening out in the suburbs but I guess that is what I get for leaning on my own understanding.
I still find myself at times struggling to figure out where I am supposed to be, where I should be going or what I should be doing with this thing called life but my father’s words still serve as encouragement during those struggles.
“Don’t assume you know where you will have the most impact. Let God place you where he wants you to be. Where he can use you best”.