Monday, November 17, 2008

No Excuses

Now that Obama is President, I see it as another great example for many of my students to strive for higher goals. Over many years I have had students who used their race as an excuse for why they didn’t do better in school, why they couldn’t dream of a better life, and why they couldn’t achieve their goals. For many years, my students believed the way to a better life was to be a famous athlete who is paid a ridiculous amount of money. They didn’t believe that you could use an education and your brain to achieve your goals.

Today I thought about many famous African Americans who didn’t let their race hold them back. There were so many of them that I didn’t think I could name them all. In fact, I found a wonderful website that lists Notable African Americans. These were great for students to study but then I started to think of people in my own community who were great role models.

One person I thought of was Oscar Neely, a paraprofessional who worked with me for a few years. He was also the head varsity basketball coach for our school and used as an administrator at times. He was always well dressed and was professional at all time. We talked a lot about the race issue and how many of our students used it as an excuse for not succeeding. Here was living proof that this was not true because Oscar had a teaching degree and was our winning most basketball coach ever. He was a true role model for my students because he treated adults and students with respect. He rarely lost his composure and could reason with most students and adults during an emotional situation. As a basketball coach, he had a lot of influence on the student body and I was honored to work with him on a daily basis.

I believe we need to get more community members into our classrooms as role models for our students. The famous people we can find on the internet and TV are great to use for examples but if you can show them a real person to interact with, students have a more concrete example. The more real we can make it for our students, the more successful they can be.

Original image: 'Q picks the Great African Americans Placemat' Archie McPhee

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