Yesterday, I had the honor of spending a short time with Asenath Andrews, principal of The Catherine Ferguson Academy in Detroit, Michigan (an alternative high school for pregnant girls and teen mothers). After spending one-on-one time sitting next to each other during a workshop on Monday, I was inspired by her and compelled to attend her keynote on Tuesday. She's just one of those people who, when she speaks, you listen. She has a wonderful balance of anecdotes spiced with a "smart mouth", as she calls it. I tend to gravitate towards sassy, spunky, powerful women, and she is all that (and a bag of chips! Sorry...I just couldn't resist.)
Besides her inspiring stories, I was most impressed with the powerful one-liners she shared with the audience. It was like an Oprah show for Educators... A-Ha! moments abounding.
I wanted to share some of her most inspirational one-liners.
Everyday, Asenath makes her school announcements and she closes by saying "When you leave here today, you should be smarter than when you got here. Because smart is what you get, not what you are." What a powerful, empowering comment to hear and be reminded of every day.
So many students become bogged down with their home lives and their individual circumstances, but we must hold EVERY student to the same expectations that we would hold our own children to. Each individual must be motivated to create a future for themselves. "No body can hold you back, except for you." Asenath says that it is "our job to take away their shoes and give them wings."
"Don't try and make the kids fit the school. Make the school fit the kids."
We need to do a better job of marketing the courses we offer. Every other media source targets our students and does a great job of marketing to them, so why shouldn't we. When she began offering an Anatomy and Physiology course in her school, they placed signs around the school that said "This class is only for smart people, dummies need not sign up."
"There can't be a rule against something no one has ever done before. Don't tell yourself no, let them tell you."
"You can't learn everything you need to know in a school building."
"Give them time to think about what you're teaching them."
Asenath began a garden (that more resembles a farm) in the middle of Detroit. She feels strongly that these young women need to know how to provide for their children to avoid the path of poverty, and this is one way she has fostered their learning outside the walls of the school building. She has taken girls to South Africa to teach the people about sustainable growing. One of the Catherine Ferguson girls commented after the trip, "My son will never be a neighborhood boy. He will be a man of the world." What a gift to give a young woman and her child!
There were so many more one-liners that have inspired change within me. I hope you have the opportunity to hear her speak or meet her in person, but if not, she has some great videos on YouTube.
And with a sad face ): I must pack up this laptop and head home...what a great experience the SXSWedu Conference has been.
Now back to the classroom to inspire my students with new vigor and purpose. More than anything, I've learned that in this ever-changing world, I must allow my students to discover what truly inspires them and do everything I can to support that.
You can watch her keynote here: http://vimeo.com/61439892