Teachers of New Jersey: Ebone Thrower, Kindergarten, Midtown Community School, Neptune, NJ
Out of 19 kids in my class, 16 of them speak Spanish, and for their parents Spanish is their first language. If they were in class with me, I could work with and around the language barrier. But at home, if the only language their parents know is Spanish, it makes it more difficult for me, for sure, and they are at an even greater disadvantage. When school started it was all virtual, and I had to keep reminding them that I was not some kid show screen character, that I was a real person. They were so wide-eyed when the school finally switched to a hybrid, part-time at school, and the kids saw me in person. All they ever saw of me was on screen!
It is going to be interesting to see how I can help them learn this year when they have been doing part-virtual and part in-person for the school year at this point. The school right now has a hybrid, where they come in two days a week, and learn remotely two days a week. But a hindrance for me – and the students – is that a lot of my kids do not have internet, so I only get to teach them two days a week when they are actually in school. It’s a lot of work, that’s for sure!
I am able to connect to the kid with their challenges because I had some challenges growing up, too. My parents divorced when I was at a young age, so my single mom raised me while she went to school. She always pushed me to do my best at school. I had to find myself as an individual in the middle of being raised by a single mom who wanted me to be independent, but I still had to find my own way. But I learned as a teacher you have to evolve as a person, and always be a learner. People will have their expectations of you, and I was always a quiet, shy person, and I had a lot of pressure to be somebody I wasn’t, and I was ready to give up. I saw how my mom struggled, and I was so afraid of being in that same position in life, and I overthought what it meant to be a teacher. But I had teacher friends at the school that I taught at who encouraged me not to quit, to not give up, and to shine as the person that I actually am. I am so thankful for them for keeping me going. I had to remember that I love the kids, and remember why I went into teaching in the first place. So I came out of my shell and grew in confidence in myself. I am coming up on my 10 year anniversary as a teacher and I see how I am connecting with my kids every year, and I am so proud of myself for who I am and what I have accomplished.
Interview by Gregory Andrus
Portraits of the Jersey Shore