What's your education story?

As a student, school was literally family for this Tindley teacher

PHOTO: Shaina Cavazos
ShaDe' Watson is now a teacher at her alma mater, Tindley Accelerated School.

education_story_graphic

Chalkbeat journalists ask the people we come across in our work to tell us about their education stories and how learning shaped who they are today. Learn more about this series, and read other installments, here.

ShaDe’ Watson is a special education teacher at Tindley Accelerated School. She also graduated from Tindley in 2009 as part of the school’s second graduating class.

I grew up in a single-parent home, and I was just always active in education. My mom, in the summers, we were in the library doing the reading program. I just kind of knew — I never really felt the struggle, but I knew my mother worked hard.

I finished sixth grade in Wayne Township. I didn’t do seventh grade at all, and I went to Tindley for eighth grade. My mother had heard about Tindley, and she thought it would be a good school for my brother. I’m usually the kind of student who can excel anywhere, so she took me there.

It was a little scary, but I was able to do it with my good grades.

My mother is from South Carolina, and so I did eighth grade at Tindley and in ninth grade I went back (to South Carolina) because my grandmother got sick. She had cancer. The feel wasn’t the same. The care of the students wasn’t the same when I was in South Carolina, and I was in a magnet school where you’d think it would be, but it wasn’t.

So my mother sent me back, and I stayed with my older sister for a while, but I moved in with Mr. Robinson and his wife. And I’ve been there ever since. At the time, Marcus Robinson, he was our principal, and he was like our dad. He’s my father figure — I’ll call him “dad.”

I wasn’t the only scholar who they took in. And there were other teachers who took in students whose parents were out of town. Every adult at the school took on a child, went the extra mile to make sure we were good where we were.

There was always a teacher there to correct you, a parent there to correct you, and it didn’t have to be your parent. It could be anyone’s parent. I think that’s what got us so close, our graduating class. Even if we don’t talk a lot, we’re there. It’s just something I’ve never experienced before at a school. Those are my brothers, those are my sisters, those are my parents, those are my aunties.

That’s probably why my loyalty to Tindley is where it is now, and I was willing to come back and teach. I trusted the people that said I could do it.

I felt like these people aren’t just here to teach me, they actually care about my life outside. I try to do that now with a lot of my scholars. We’ll be at the school until 8 o’clock to make sure they have what they need. If this child might not have eaten, I’ll make sure I have someone to give to them.

I don’t know if a lot of people realize that taking this extra step means the world to a child.

What's Your Education Story?

Join Chalkbeat for a night of hilarious and heartbreaking storytelling by teachers

PHOTO: Ronak Shah

Kick off the school year with a night of hilarious, heartbreaking and inspiring stories from educators.

Over the past year, Chalkbeat has brought readers personal stories from the teachers, students and leaders of Indianapolis through our occasional series, What’s Your Education Story? Some of our favorites were told live, during teacher story slams hosted by Teachers Lounge Indy. They touched on how a teacher used the story of black santa to keep a difficult student engaged, a student who triumphed at school before tragedy struck and the unexpected lesson of a mouse in the classroom.

Next month, Chalkbeat is partnering with Teachers Lounge Indy, WFYI Public Media and the Indianapolis Public Library to host a story slam. The event, 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 5, will showcase tales from across Circle City classrooms. It is free and open to the public.

Event details:

5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2017
Central Library, Clowes Auditorium
40 E. St. Clair St., Indianapolis, IN
Get tickets here and find more on Facebook

What's Your Education Story?

‘Everything is going to be great,’ he told his teacher. She wishes that was the end of his story.

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Katie Speer shared her story at an event hosted by Indy Teachers Lounge.

Educators from across Indianapolis gathered to tell stories about the joys and heartbreaks of teaching at a storytelling event hosted by Teachers Lounge Indy. Chalkbeat sharing a few of our favorites, edited for clarity.

Katie Speer is a middle school teacher at KIPP Indy. For more stories about Indianapolis educators, see our occasional series “What’s Your Education Story?”.

This story centers around a student that I taught last year. He was in my homeroom, and this student was literally everyone’s best friend. He could meet someone and then they would be best friends. His smile lit up the room. His laughter was echoing in the lunchroom. Everyone loved him.

The problem was, I taught him at the end of the day. By the time he got to me at 2:50, he was worn out from just bringing joy to the world.

He’d come to my class, and he’d be like, “Hey Miss Speer!” And I’d be like, “Hey, how are you?”

And then five minutes into my class, he’d be (snoring), just out, out to the world. I would call his name out in my class. I’d walk over. I would tap him.

Then I moved his seat, directly to the left of me. And every minute, I would just poke him. Over time, he was immune to my pokes.

I was like, “OK. We got to figure this out. You are not passing my class, but you are brilliant. We have to fix this.”

So my solution was, I had to start calling home. His dad was great. He would be ready to answer the phone during my class. The second his head would start to go, I’d be like, “no, we are calling dad.”

And he hated it. It was the only thing that I could get to work. And he was like, “Oh, you are the worst. You are petty. You are lame. I hate you.” All of that.

I actually called his dad four days in a row, and he was so mad at me. But then, the next progress report came out and he was passing my class.

I’m like, “OK. I can do this. I can go home every day and feel like he hates me, but it’s working.”

At my school, we do this thing called shout-outs. We end every day on a positive note. The students have the floor, and they shout out someone in their homeroom.

He’s like, “I have a shout-out, I have a shout-out.”

He said, “Miss Speer, I would like to shout you out for always calling home. Even though I say that I hate it, I know that you do it because you love me, and I know that you do it because you want to make a difference, and that means a lot to me.”

The school year goes on, and he passes all of his classes. And it’s time for promotion. We always gather in homerooms to prep for promotion and go over the details one more time. And he shows up in suit pants, the nicest dress shoes, this beautiful suit vest and this bowtie and a bright yellow button-up.

And he’s like, “Miss Speer take a picture of all the boys. Miss Speer take a picture of the whole class. Miss Speer just take a picture of me, because I look great.”

The night comes to an end, and I’m literally standing on the sidewalk waiting for people to get picked up and I’m just sobbing.

He gives me a hug and he’s like, “Everything is going to be great. Thank you for being my teacher. Thank you for being great. You are going to be fine. We are going to be fine. I’m going to be fine. It’s gonna be good.”

I would love for that to be the end of this story.

But unfortunately, three weeks into summer, he was killed in an act of gun violence.

I think that although this story isn’t happy, it’s something that I want to share because everyday, I am pushed to be a better person and a better teacher. In his memory, sometimes I do the tough things or I go the extra mile, or I make those calls that I really didn’t want to make because I know that I’m going to hear it from the student, because I know that it matters. I want to continue to be that person.

Shout out to all the teachers who do that every single day, because it’s hard to make the hard phone calls. It’s hard to go the extra mile. It’s really hard to go home and feel like you are not on their side. But it matters. It makes a difference.

Shout out to him because he makes me a better person every single day.