It can be an eerie feeling to see everyone around you accomplish the same goals that you have for yourself, whether it’s graduating, getting married, having kids, or getting promotions. For me, it’s even more difficult when the people closest to me are achieving these milestones. But I’ve come to accept that everyone’s race is different, and people don’t achieve things at the same time. We can’t compare our personal races with other people’s races because we never know what hurdles they had to overcome to get to where they are.
For me, it took four-and-a-half years to graduate with my bachelor’s degree. I was able to see some of my peers graduate in the standard four years and even some in three-and-a-half years. But I needed an extra semester to complete my undergraduate journey. I was a little devastated that I wasn’t graduating on time. According to The New York Times, “only 19 percent of full-time students earn a bachelor’s degree in four years.” But despite the statistics that the majority of full-time students take five-to-six years to graduate, I wanted to graduate “on-time.”
Being Twentysomething it seems that I haven’t been on time for any of the goals I made for myself when I was younger. By 25, I thought I’d at least be engaged to my college sweetheart, but here I am at 24 and have yet to have been in a serious relationship. Sometimes I find myself getting upset that the plans I had for myself weren’t a part of God’s timing. How do we know what God’s “on-time” plan is for us? Did I miss the orientation where God told each of us when we would accomplish certain goals? It can be so frustrating, especially in this age of social media when you can see all the accomplishments of the people around you. It might make you feel like you aren’t doing something right. But trust me that isn’t the case. It’s all about God’s timing, not yours.
Despite things not happening the way I wanted them to, I know that as long as I keep my faith in God everything will work out. The Bible says, “At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up” (from Galatians 6:9 NLT). Knowing that it would take me an extra semester to get my bachelor’s degree I could have easily gotten discouraged, distracted or maybe even thrown in the towel. How many times have we thought about quitting something because it’s not happening as fast or easy as we wanted it to happen? It’s not about how fast or slow we finish the race, but that we finish.
Graduating with your bachelor’s degree at 50 or getting married and starting a family at 20 will feel no different if you accomplish it sooner or later in life. What God has for you will be for you, no matter how long it might take. So take a deep breath and don’t rush through your race to catch up with the masses. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the LORD. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.’” God has a plan for your life. So go ahead and celebrate your friend’s engagement and know that if it’s in His will it will come to you. If you are feeling down about something not happening when or how you want it to, stay faithful and hold on to God’s hand because He’s got you no matter what. And no matter what bumps in the road you encounter, remember life is a marathon, not a sprint.
Jordan Clayton-Taylor is a twentysomething recent college grad with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and English and a minor in Black Studies. As Jordan navigates her way through life, she tries to walk by faith and not by sight while staying positive despite all the things going on around her.
Originally posted on Chalkbeat by Kathryn Palmer on July 19, 2019
Rodney Robinson will never forget how isolated he felt as one of the few black faces at his Virginia high school.
“Growing up as the smart black kid in a white school is traumatizing,” said Robinson, who was named 2019 National Teacher of the Year. He spoke to more than 200 Shelby County Schools educators and summer school students at Southwind High School earlier this week as part of a two-day districtwide training.
Robinson, who teaches social studies at the Virgie Binford Education Center, located inside the Richmond Juvenile Detention Center in Virginia, recalled how as a high schooler that trauma came to a head in the mid-1990s when a white teacher made a racially insensitive remark.
“In my anger, I turned over a desk,” Robinson told the audience who attended his presentation Tuesday.
“The teacher sent me to the assistant principal’s office,” he continued. “I was scared because the code of conduct said damage of property could result in expulsion,” said Robinson, who has written extensively about rethinking school discipline.
Robinson’s experience resonated with local school officials, who are focusing new attention on ending Memphis’ school-to-prison pipeline, or punitive discipline tactics that can lead to higher rates of incarceration, especially for black boys. In the 2017-2018 school year, Shelby County Schools issued almost 2,500 expulsions, according to district data. That’s about 300 more than in the previous year — when, according to federal data, the district already had one of the highest expulsion numbers in the country.
“I care about all 110,000 students in Shelby County Schools,” said superintendent Joris Ray in a speech ahead of Robinson’s presentation. “But this priority group [of black male students] needs us the most.” Black boys, who make up about 38 percent of the district’s more than 100,000 students, accounted for 67 percent of expulsions in the 2017-18 school year.
“Relationships are the key determinant in changing student behaviors,” Ray said after the event. “For students to succeed in school, someone has to show interest in them, and set high expectations.”
Hiring more black male teachers, who make up 9.5 percent of the district’s workforce, is critical to making that happen, Ray said. He is about to start his first full year as superintendent and said next week he will give more specifics addressing the systemic barriers that have impeded the academic achievement of black male students.
Although the problem of black male students facing suspensions and expulsions at a disproportionately higher rate than their white peers is especially prominent in Memphis, it has pervaded nearly every district, city, and state in the country for decades.
But Robinson’s story had a better outcome than those statistics suggested it would, which he attributes to having a strong, relatable mentor. The assistant principal, Wayne Lewis, was one of a handful of black authority figures working at Robinson’s school.
“I sat down in front of Dr. Lewis and he asked me ‘where are you thinking about going to [college]?’” Robinson said.
The comment surprised Robinson. He was bracing for a harsh punishment, but instead, Lewis told him about Virginia State University, where Robinson received his bachelor’s degree in history several years later.
Then, the conversation circled back to the reason Robinson was in Lewis’ office. He said he wasn’t going to suspend Robinson because “he knew I was going to go home and do something stupid. But he told me I couldn’t curse at teachers and flip over desks — no matter how upset I was — so he gave me in-school suspension instead.”
And when Robinson showed up for his in-school punishment, Lewis did, too, carrying college application materials.
“He took time to get to know every student on a personal level — black and white,” Robinson said. “He took me from a confused teenager to a confident young man. He showed me what a black man should be,” Robinson said.
Now in his 40s, Robinson said all students, especially black boys, need more culturally responsive, empathetic teachers. “Our kids are coming into our schools dealing with problems we can’t even imagine,” he said.
Although his students are already incarcerated, he suggests a four-pronged teaching approach that can be applied to teachers in any classroom, regardless of the demographic of students they serve:
Don’t put students in a box — get to know them as people.
Make learning relevant.
Create new experiences.
Be a mentor.
District leaders are already working to putting those practices into action to prevent students from ending up in a juvenile detention center like the one where Robinson works.
“Kids don’t wake up one day and end up in a situation like that,” said Angela Hargrave, director of the district’s Office of Student Equity, Enrollment and Discipline, which organized the teacher workshop.
“It starts with addressing some of the minor behaviors first,” Hargrave said. “We want to make sure our first response is about support not punishment.”
Chalkbeat is a nonprofit news site covering educational change in public schools.