A Cultured Classroom

By: Nayelle Williams, Secondary English Education Major

In the words of Nelson Mandela, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Teachers are world-changers who influence the lives of students daily. As an aspiring educator, I am cognizant that I hold the future in my classroom. Since I was a child, I knew I wanted to be a teacher. I would play school with stuffed animals or imaginary friends, teaching them the lessons I learned in school that day. Fortunately, I had some excellent teachers who inspired me to follow my passion.

I wanted to become an educator because of the lack of diversity in the profession. Throughout my scholastic career, I noticed there were not many teachers who looked like me, who could identify with my experience as a Black, female in this society. The classroom and student population is becoming more diverse; however, the teaching demographic is not representative of this trend. Essentially, I went into the profession to be the change I want to see in education. I want to be the Black teacher that was absent in my educational journey.

Throughout my time at Duquesne, I have retained a plethora of information that is beneficial to my career and overall wellbeing. I have been afforded the opportunity to observe different types of schools and teachers. Most recently, I started an internship through ACH Clear Pathways, which is an after-school program that offers classes pertaining to the arts. Some examples of their programming initiatives are dance, theater, painting, fashion design, poetry, and music. The mission of ACH Clear Pathways is to “nurture the hearts of the arts”. Throughout my time there, I have seen some concepts and ideas from my education courses—like culturally relevant pedagogy—in practice. The teaching-artists at ACH ensure that their projects are culturally responsive. For instance, one of the teaching artists did a unit on African culture. She had students design and make clothes that resemble African garments and accessories. In this case, students were learning about different cultures and participating in a hands-on, interactive activity. This exposure has taught me the importance of teaching beyond the curriculum. Culture must be integrated into the classroom.

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