“I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept.”. Angela Davis.
Welcome to B1, one of the most phenomenal 6th grade classrooms I had ever observed and that was 17 years ago in a small town just east of L.A. I will never forget that rich, white 22-year-old student teacher who taught this black seasoned educator a few things no college education graduate course could ever teach me. Hunter Mathis was so, so gifted and our principal gave him free reign because his out-of-the-box academic methodology worked. High attendance and test scores validated his success, and his students were always so cheerful when they came into his classroom every morning. If he noticed any behavior to the contrary, he had this special way to keep the student from being embarrassed while keeping from adding any more trauma than had probably already been experienced the night or morning before they walked into school.
At least once a week, parents were scheduled to sit in on the beginning of their children’s class; no more than 30 minutes, at least for the first quarter. Tavis Smiley’s ‘Empowerment Cards’ (50) or a powerful quote started each day. Many of Mr. Mathis’ former students went on to succeed beyond anyone’s expectations coming from the backgrounds and the environments they did not choose to live. A middle school alternative school where children looked forward to coming to school. Their teacher had been nominated for a national teacher’s award because the parents wanted to thank him.
Smiley was the first African American to have had his own signature talk show in NPR’s history. In introducing his ‘Empowerment Cards’ in 2003, his intent was to provide inspiring messages that would promote positive change. “Everyone has the power in all their interactions to choose peace, joy, forgiveness, tolerance, and success and many other empowering attributes.
The year 2020 was unprecedented and the loss of human lives in so many venues could never be measured. The first 6 months of 2021 has found gun violence among black youth and young adults difficult to explain. The violent epidemic has not just ravaged The Twin Cities, but the horror, fear, and sadness spreads nationwide.
In the coming weeks, I hope to present supportive information that will help parents and teachers, especially with children who have been so traumatized they can’t talk about it. They must talk to someone if they are to move forward. As our resident teen contributor to both “Insight News” and our Friday “Healing Circle”, Lillie Rankin, a sophomore at Irondale High School, shared, “Adults must go beyond the surface. Parents and all other child advocates have to bond; to let young children and teens know they understand, they can trust us, we can talk about whatever is on their minds and hearts, and there are peaceful and solution-driven ways to resolve their issues and the hurts even they don’t understand.
And so, I’d like to introduce a segment of ‘empowering’ our children and teachers by enhancing the positive ambiance of our classrooms.
- Be consistently kind - Avoid the enticement to be mean or argue. Allow others to be right. As far as you’re concerned, be peaceful with everyone you encounter.
- Destroy the doubt - Eliminate the doubt that you can effect change, that you will receive what you are due, and that justice will be done. Release the doubt and accept the challenge to change what you consider unacceptable.
- Intensify your integrity - Be open, honest, and honorable in all your endeavors. Establish high standards, principles, and values for yourself, then kick it up a level. In everything you do, be true to you.
- Defy the fear - Fear brings on severe cases of ‘woulda, shoulda, coulda.’ Confront that feeling of emptiness and anxiety over possible rejection. Face the fear now and avoid the regret later.
- Be conscious of the comeback - Know that everything you do comes back to you. Step outside yourself and consider the consequences before you make a move. If your action will bring peace to all involved, its’ the right thing to do.
- Change your rhythm. Pick up the pace of your life. Add a new activity, make a new acquaintance, read a new book, or take a new course. Move outside your everyday mundane existence. Add a new beat and expand your boundaries.
- Dot the D’s. You have the ability to attract into your life all your wants and needs by following the Five D’s. Decide what you want, determine to make it happen, diligently do everything in your power to achieve your goal, and detach yourself from the result.
- Appreciate the obstacle. Each obstacle you overcome is a stepping-stone on your path to greatness. Appreciate the obstacle for it empowers you to courageously face future barriers in your quest for success.
- Change your internal chit chat. Rehashing in your mind the negative events of your past leads to mental and physical dis-ease. Face forward and change your mind chatter. Only you have the power to control your thoughts that evoke love, laughter, and happiness.
- Create can-do kids. Don’t impose your thoughts of lack and limitation on your children. When you think your children can, they will think they can. When you erase your own doubt in your child’s ability, your child will face each challenge with confidence and a can-do attitude.
- Explore your talents. Everyone is blessed with at least one unique talent. Take time now to discover, define, and develop your talent. Don’t go to your grave with your untapped talent buried inside you.
At the end of the day, Hunter Mathis shook each student’s hand, and reminded them they must have a good reading book with them every day. On the board, there would always be the same message. “Waste no time in your day. Stay enlightened, encouraged, and empowered!”