Two summers ago, I began my first teaching fellowship with an organization that had an odd name to it: Hope Street Group. Moreover, while the reason behind the name is not as convoluted as one might imagine (the organization was founded in Los Angeles, on Hope Street), I was surprised and humbled to be selected. At that time, I was a hard-worker who lacked confidence pursuing as many opportunities to overachieve as possible. When I walked toward the large, u-shaped table where our first convening was held, I was just happy to be there.
Our first task was simple, but much more challenging than I expected it to be. “Summarize your teaching philosophy in one item.” I thought to myself, what could I share that would convey my teaching style while blending the important story of why I teach. Then, as I tend to do, I forgot about it…until right before I was about to get in my car and head to Nashville. So much for being this deep thinker, I just needed something! Fortunately, I happened to be wearing my item, which was really just the bridge I needed to tell my story. I was wearing a tie clip with a puzzle piece on it to represent my deep, personal connection with autism.
I looked around the room and it seemed like most of the other fellows had made the same mistake I did. There were a few books, a deck of cards, and other random items. I remember listening to fellows tell their stories, though, and it made me feel good. I felt good being in the presence of so many passionate educators, and I felt good knowing some amazing role models of mine were scattered across the state.
From that day, we were off to make a difference, our difference. We established credibility for ourselves, for Hope Street Group in Tennessee, and we earned a voice the right to share the feedback of Tennessee teachers with our Commissioner of Education.
Throughout the two years, Hope Street Group taught me to become a connected educator, and trained me to develop skills more teachers should have, including self-advocacy and speaking with policymakers. I learned what micro-credentials are and now I have some. I made friends, and I truly care about the other fellows and what lies ahead for them.
Most importantly, the fellowship taught me that I can…
I can place anything after that “can” and make it a reality – for myself, for my colleagues, and for my students.
How do I know that “I can…?” Because I did. We all did.
To Hope Street Group, Keilani, and my friends in the fellowship, thank you.