And So We Shone

“It seems like, well, y’all hire a lot of white teachers but there aren’t a lot of black ones.”

Her eyes stop alternating between the floor and window and lifted to meet mine. We were closing our time in a restorative circle and listening to students share ways we could support them moving forward.

As teachers of literacy, we are fierce advocates of students being able to find themselves on our shelves, but do we advocate as fiercely for our students to be able to find themselves at the front of our classrooms? In addition to this, are we honoring the expertise of those teachers of color who already occupy our classrooms?

After I got back to my office, my mind immediately thought of one of my favorite teachers. So, for my day of #31DaysIBPOC, I want to say thank you to Ms. Paula Rayford, my first black teacher.


Dear Ms. Rayford,


From the moment

We walked into your classroom

Eyes bright with innocence

And the space filled with promise

You made one thing clear:


We were yours. All of us.


But on another level, some of us felt more like yours —

In you we could see mothers, aunts, and grandmothers.

With you, we could feel the love that cared for and raised generations

Eye-to-eye with you

We could see ourselves.


Ten-year-old boys

With the energy of a thousand.

You never suppressed Black Boy Joy.

You found a way to harness it

So that we could light the way for those who would come after us.


And so we shone.

In honors programs where there were so few of us

We shone.

As we watched others try to harness the energy coming from us

With lassos woven from acronyms:

A.D.H.D. and  S.L.D.

We shone.


Because you taught us

When you try to put a 100 watt bulb

In a lamp that can only handle 40

Don’t blame the bulb.


Instead of teaching us to code switch

You taught us how to switch the code.

So, I’m writing you to simply say thank you.


When I wake up at 4:00

To drive bus 186

I think of you and how you worked two jobs

But never clocked out on loving us

And it pushes me to be better for my students.


You are a major reason why I do what I do.

Love you always,



This blog post is part of the #31DaysIBPOC Blog Challenge, a month-long movement to feature the voices of indigenous and teachers of color as writers and scholars. Please CLICK HERE to read yesterday’s blog post by Dr. Laura Jimenez (and be sure to check out the link at the end of each post to catch up on the rest of the blog circle)



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