Here’s the back story on my little love affair with Ms. Cyrkle Lomax. I met Cyrkle circa 2014-2015. She taught my eldest child Sanaa at Excel Academy. Sanaa would come home raving about how cool Ms. Lomax was. She said she was a lot like me, small but mighty, a disciplinarian, that played ZERO games with the kids.
When she introduced herself, she was so sincere, “Hi my name is Cyrkle, like the shape”, because her name is spelled non-traditionally and to ensure you didn’t misunderstand what she just said, that was indeed her name, the intro was necessary. I immediately thought I love the creativity of black folk, we sure will recreate something real quick, but I love it, it was unique just like her.Love Addict, it sits on my coffee table beside Michelle Obama’s Becoming.
We celebrate our educators during the first week of May during what is affectionately called, “Teacher Appreciation Week.” This year I wanted to highlight this special woman. We met at our “local” Starbucks and chatted about a whole lot of things. Check out the Q&A below. We got in to so much during our little “tea session” I had to split the conversation into two parts, so stay tuned, this is a two-parter.
CLASS IS IN SESSION Q&A-PART 1
IVN: Your first passion, your first love, were the arts. You’re an actress, you’ve modeled. That’s what you wanted to do when you first started out on your journey, how do we get to teaching?
CL: I believe my steps are ordered because every experience that I’ve ever had, has actually prepared me to be an educator. Because even because believe in it, acting skill teacher,they are what you call a stage when you teach your one stage. So I’ve always kind of been a teacher in that regard. And I’ve always been a public speaker. I’ve always been a person that didn’t mind the being on “stage” aspect of teaching.
In college I majored in marketing. That was my first career, I was in advertising. It’s all a kind of a thread; it all connected/aligned. But then literally I had an epiphany and it hit me, I said to myself, just stop, you want to teach children. To be frank, I went to a women’s conference when women of faith were still doing their conferences. And I literally felt the urge to teach. I thought it was seminary. That’s not what it was!
When I dropped everything and said I’m going to switch gears, I’m really going to go ALL in, that’s how I ended up at Excel as a long-term sub (substitute teacher). And you know what I never looked back. I literally believe it’s not a job, it’s a vocation, a calling. You know what I mean? I believe you MUST be called to do this work. There are plenty of people that do this job to get a check, so they can pay their bills. But to truly give your life to the edification of the children is just another role of service. Being an advocate, a real educator, one that truly understands that this work is a generational work, and you must literally make sacrifices. That’s just is not something that’s taught. It’s something you are!
People who become educators have been in some form of education their entire lives. Whether they were a mentor, taught Bible study, Sunday school, taught little kids in their neighborhood how to jump double Dutch, they’ve always had that in them.
For whatever reason I’ve always had young people around me. Before I made the jump to education, even when I was a young adult, the middle schoolers always wanted to hang with Ms.Cyrkle.
I have no idea why, I don’t know if it’s because I have a young spirit, the kids always wanted to be around me. And I wasn’t doing anything earth-shattering, they just wanted to be around me. And that has followed me into adulthood.
I went into special education but I really wanted to be an English teacher…
IVN: My favorite teacher in school (my English teacher)
CL: Right (chuckles) I wanted that to be my base but I ended teaching, cheer, theatre, and dance… at Excel. As I was doing all those things I realized there was group of children being left behind (children with learning disabilities). I also recognized this was unintentional. I don’t think school systems intend to do that. But it takes skill to teach children that learn differently. So that’s when I got my masters in special education.
IVN: That’s dope. When did it become clear to you that made the right decision, the decision to switch gears and become a teacher?
CL: I knew I made the right decision when I became a special education chair. Especially considering where I am now, I’m in Ward eight in Washington D.C., where the level disproportionality of special education is great.
In dealing with those children who have been labeled as an emotionally disturbed or as having a learning disability, things of that nature, dealing with those children are my sweet spot. I know I need to be the advocate for those children. And if that means going to my colleagues and saying, ‘I know it’s a challenge trying to figure out how they learn but I promise you they want to learn, all they need to know is that you actually care.’ The truth is they WANT to learn. It’s absolutely not that they don’t want to learn, it’s just it’s hard to get to that point. They have a number of different things in there way, especially if they have ADD or ADHD.
If we just take the time, even it’s just taking five minutes to acknowledge that they’re struggling with whatever subject matter and offering up yourself, that makes all the difference.
IVN: So what would you say to the educators that are come up and coming, fresh out of college? What words of wisdom would you give them?
CL: The first piece of advice I would give is to remember your why, you have to REMEMBER YOUR WHY. Because every school district has issues, right?! Every school district has red tape, every school district has administration even if you’re in a charter (there’s structure there), you have your network office telling you what to do. We do have a little bit more autonomy in what we can do in the charter network, but just remember your WHY. It’s about the children, it’s about the students, it’s about the scholars, whatever title you want to give them, this is about them, keep them at the forefront.
And the second is, don’t give up after your first year. Everybody’s first year is rough. You will go home almost daily crying, saying I suck at this. But don’t give up, you’re learning. There is no amount of book knowledge you can possess that will prepare you for when you’re standing on “stage” in front of a classroom full of children and little Johnny is having a meltdown, this one shoe is untied, the other one shirt dirty and everybody’s talking about him, this one can’t read but you still have to address the needs of the children who came prepared and ready to learn. There’s no amount of book knowledge that you before you for day one, because that all happens day one. There might be a honeymoon period, but it usually doesn’t last long.
My other piece of advice is constantly seek knowledge. Be a self-learner, be a life-long learner. Don’t dream you know it all after undergrad. Pursue professional development, we must perfect our craft just like anything else, college is not the end. I’m not saying you have to get a master’s degree, just continue honing your skills. Learn new techniques, teaching styles, develop new skills, stay solid and consistent.
To be continued…