I Won’t Keep Going
The night I decided to leave my career in education, Mel and I went to dinner.
I called my Grandmother to tell her.
She was not home, but when she called me back, I stepped out of the restaurant and walked up and down M street, telling her what I had decided to do.
I was crying. I was smoking. I was shaking.
My whole life, I seeked her approval.
I did all the things she told me to.
I wanted her to tell me leaving the charter school was a good idea.
I wanted her to support my decision to leave my administrator position, even though there were only 6 weeks left of school.
Just a week before, we had a shooting at the school, which led to the death of a young man who was the uncle of a student and an employee of our school.
I fell apart, a nervous break down of storts.
My life began to unravel from the inside and then I started to question everything.
A Black man on the streets of Southeast Washingtn DC killing another Black man, was not news. In fact, it seemed more like old news to the cops, and the neighborhood. Barely a word, “ Move on!” was the message. “ This is what happens here.” Stats not humans. Norms of numbness. Not tears of emotions or investigations. Just life as usual, on this street.
I’ll only imagine that the Bussey’s did not feel their loved one was old news, I never had the chance to ask them.
The Head of School and I did not agree on how to move forward, on how to handle this death on the doorstep.
She was an ex-marine and I was an ex-kindgerten teacher.
I was scared. I did not know how to help support our staff or students. I begged for more protection, more surveillance, a guard, a patrol, anything.
I was told “not this year, it’s not in the budget.”
And so I decided to quit.
I could not continue.
I was not strong enough to keep pushing.
I was falling apart.
I was also nervous and afraid that if anyone got hurt on my watch, that jail and charges would not be out of the question for me, Would I have to take the blame? I had seen this happen at another school I was at with a teacher and a student.
And so I told her, “I can’t go on. I have to give my notice. I can’t stop crying. I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t belong. I’m not strong enough. I’m falling apart.”
I was not able to put into words what was happening at the time. Years of telling Mel “ it won’t happen here. I’m fine. It’s safe. Don’t believe all those stereotypes. ” And then it did. And all I knew to be true shattered into a million pieces, confusion set in. My heart broken. I was so naive, so determined, so immarture. So lost.
And she said, “keep going. You can do this. What will they do without you? You have been there since the beginning and you can’t give up.”
My stomach dropped, not the answer I wanted her to say.
All I wanted was her to give my permission to go, permission to give up, to surrender. I always did what she told me to do.
Inside, I begged her to change her mind, to see my perspective, to hear in my voice that I could not go on.
Oh, I longed for the words to come out of her mouth,
“You should leave.”
but they never came.
The next day, I placed my resignation letter on the desk of the head of school, which was 3 feet from mine. She walked in, she read it. She put it back down on her desk, she went back to work on her computer. She did not respond. She did not talk to me. I had let her down. She was powering through her emails and daily work, she had to.
Eventually, I stood up and went upstairs to see our students, to see their faces that I adored. Brilliant, Beautiful Black boys filled our halls.
Bright smiles of hope and connection, learning and singing. I saw them playing with blocks, reading and writing in classrooms that I had spent my summer organizing. Sitting on furniture from my home and reading books from my classroom libraries of years past.
I walked the halls, tears. I had let them all down.
Where would I go from here?