I teach because a teacher saved my life—a teacher saw something in me that I did not see in myself. My mother was a teacher, a very good teacher. She taught high school business classes in the same high school that I attended, but she did not see what another teacher saw in me. I was a child of high energy, before the clinical names of ADHD and hyperactivity and the others that tried to “label boys.” Many of my teachers struggled because I did not focus and was often off-task and “busy.” There were other issues, like my dad was not involved in my life. My mother did the best she could to provide a home filled with love and learning, peace, and support. There were things to do in the neighborhood of Germantown in Philadelphia, but my father was not there to talk to me, to guide me, to discipline me, and to be that role model I needed. I was not “bad,” just very active with high energy levels, curiosity, and no direction.
A teacher saw that my curiosity could take me places: it could fill a void and it could help me focus my attention. It could save my life from gangs, drugs, and other things that threaten a young Black man’s life when his dad is not around and his mom is working to feed and clothe him while creating a house filled with love and peace. My grandmother would help as much as she could. She told me stories of life in South Hill, Virginia. How the family came from being farmers to moving to Philly for better opportunities and how we may not be rich in money, but rich in love. We had a unique family bonding…
A teacher saw me struggle with reading and shared comic books with me. This opened up my imagination to see things with new eyes of discovery and creativity. A teacher talked to my mother about letting me run track to “burn off” my excess energy and to excel in an individual sport because I was so much of an introvert.
A teacher saw in me that I needed internal discipline and helped me join the United States Sea Cadets at the Philadelphia Naval Base. I learned about teamwork, personal pride, tolerance of others, and the value of an extended family. I was able to travel across the country, sail boats on the ocean, and learn about myself as a developing young man.
A teacher saw things in me and helped me not to be involved in crime, smoking, and taking drugs. A teacher encouraged me to work, to be a role model for my brother and sister, and to prepare me for college when it was my time. Because of all this, I became a teacher to help boys and girls who were just like me, to help them see the best in themselves, to overcome fears and anxiety they may have from day to day, and to know there was someone who cared, respected them, and had faith in them. I wanted to be that teacher, as a teacher was that way for me.
A teacher for 27 years, William Jackson teaches in Jacksonville, Florida.