I am SO thrilled to be featuring Friendella. When she first messaged me, she said one of the reasons she connected with me was the fact that she rarely came across women of colour who are educators on Twitter...and she's absolutely right. One of the things I strive to do in the #HowDoYouDoItSeries, is promote educators from all backgrounds. The beautiful thing about teaching is that it doesn't have a profile; if you have the heart and the soul to teach, you can teach.
Friendella's love of learning and teaching is so obvious. As I read through her answers, I smiled, laughed, connected and most importantly, appreciated the fact that we have educators like her in our world. Keep the connection going and reach out to Friendella after reading her feature.
Name: Friendella Scott
Tell us who you are! How long have you been working in the education field? What school district are you in?
My name is Friendella, but people call me Frien for short. Some call me “Fran” just because of our regional diction! I have been in education for 2.5 years. I began this journey, officially, February 2, 2015. My two year teacherversary is upon me! I am in the Shelby County School district in Memphis, TN.
What subject/ grade do you teach?
As of right now I teach 10th grade ELA Standard and Co-teach. This year I was also granted the opportunity to work as a Creative Writing teacher.
Who was your favourite teacher when you were a student? What made them stand out from the rest?
There are many teachers that I feel were influential as a student. Some good, some not so good. Ms. Heskett was my 3rd grade teacher. Her room always smelled like chalk and new crayons. I love that smell to this day. She had a way with a yardstick, if you know what I mean, but the teacher who made me love English, as a high schooler, was Mr. Dunaway. He was very reminiscent of Santa. Mr. D was the only teacher to give us his home number and address. Can you imagine that? Looking back, that was a pretty bold move on his behalf because our school was considered “urban”. He allowed us to tackle material in a way that made sense to us and sometimes allowed us to sing in his class. Hands down, best teacher ever. I had the opportunity to speak with him as a teacher at a professional development last year and it was kind of surreal.
What was learning like growing up for you? Easy, challenging?
Honestly, learning growing up felt easy to me. It only became challenging when I encountered a teacher who didn’t really want to teach. I loved to learn and I picked up on things rather quickly. I was the student who would work ahead on things and keep them in my folder until the teacher asked for them. I was very proactive.
Who or what inspired you to become an educator?
Outside of Mr. Dunaway in 9th grade, I encountered a professor by the name of Dr. Menson-Furr during my time at the University of Memphis that inspired me greatly. I really fell in love with the way she taught us to delve deep into a piece of literature and find meaning. Dr. Menson-Furr was the most intelligent person I had ever met, but she didn’t carry herself as a know-it-all and I aspired to one day be like her.
Describe what your dream classroom would look like.
I think about this often. My dream classroom would not have standard desk. There would be flexible seating arrangements. Couches, comfy chairs, bean bags etc. Also, students would be able to write on every surface of the classroom from the walls to the desktops. It would be dry erase of course. It would be comfortable and nonthreatening with lots of windows! It would be a color explosion. I would like a room that exudes freedom.
Tell us about a challenging moment you’ve faced in the classroom. How did you deal with it?
The most challenging thing that I have faced in the classroom is the fact that not all students are on the level they should be. It’s hard to watch a student not be able to read and comprehend on grade level. I experience varying levels of anxiety concerning this weekly because most of them have accepted defeat, and I am trying to get them to believe that there is still time to learn.
What gets you pumped up before entering the classroom? (ex. music, car dance party, coffee?)
I listen to a lot of trap music! I turn my car radio up as loud as I can stand it and rap along. I listen to all sorts of music before work, but the trap music is always in rotation.
What makes you a great educator? (Come on, toot your horn!)
The thing that makes me a great teacher is that I believe in the relationships I establish with my students. I don’t pretend to know everything, and I enjoy learning right alongside them. As a teacher, I feel that it is important to show yourself to your student’s as an imperfect person and not an, in the words of our dearest Severus Snape, “insufferable know it all”. When students know you care, they try their best in my opinion.
If your students could describe you, what would they say?
They would say that I am caring, tough, down to earth, and petty lol. That’s the type of relationship we have.
What was your best teaching moment?
My best teaching moment was not in a classroom, but as a kid teaching my younger sister her ABC’s and how to write her name. She would agree that it was a long and arduous process, but she is thankful that I was “tough” on her. She was probably 4 years old at the time. That was my first teaching moment.
What do you do to enhance your personal learning?
To enhance my learning I ask a lot of questions. I am a firm believer that no question is a dumb question, and I try to foster that attitude in my student’s. The veteran teachers around me are very good resources. I also ask my VP for reading material, our Principal often gives out books, on top of all of that, I am currently in a MAT program. I am always cruising the internet for “best practices” that I can utilize or tweak to work for me.
How do you balance your personal life from your teaching life?
Currently, I am having a hard time balancing my personal life from the teach life. It’s hard because, as I stated previously, I experience so much anxiety worrying about the futures of my student’s throughout the work day, that I haven’t any energy left after. I have all these magnificent plans and then I just crash and burn when I am home. My goal this year is to find better balance.
Do you do enough to maintain your personal well-being?
My well-being has taken the back burner, but I intend to do better this year.
Have you ever experienced burnout? What/who helped you cope?
I believe I have experienced some degree of burnout and I cope with it by watching Disney movies every chance I get. It’s a very peaceful practice.
What do you love most about teaching?
The thing I love most about teaching is the fact that I can directly affect change in a student’s life. I can give them hope that they can live on for years to come, if I do this thing right.
If you could talk to your younger self (ex. elementary student, high school student, post-secondary) what would you say?
If I could talk to my high school self, I would definitely say to myself to not just coast, but really go hard for myself. During those years, I just did the bare minimum amount of work, but I was still an honor roll student. I only pushed hard when someone told me what I couldn’t do, when I should have been pushing just for the sake of advancing myself.
There may be teachers reading this who are in need of a reminder why they’re great educators. What would you say to help lift their spirits?
You are great because you wake up with a purpose that many others will never experience. No matter how much outsiders belittle the profession of teaching, know that you are a change agent and without you the people who belittle wouldn’t be in their profession’s looking down their noses on the very people whose shoulders gave them room to dream and advance. Take solace in the fact that you truly make the world go ‘round with your daily contributions to the youth!
Jam Gamble - Connector of People, Ideas and Energy