Harriet Tubman, the famous abolitionist once said, “Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.” Classrooms across the country are filled with dreamers, and as educators, we have the power to either ignite and fuel those dreams or douse and extinguish them. What are you doing? Are you fueling and igniting or dousing and extinguishing?
One way educators can fuel students’ dreams is by being aware of the messages they are sending their students, either verbal or nonverbal. We need to ask ourselves if our words are building our students up or tearing them down. Are they making our students feel valued or devalued? Do we talk about the contributions and successes of people who look like the students in our classrooms? As our country becomes more and more diverse, it is imperative that we are intentional about fueling college and career pipelines with people from diverse backgrounds. We need to create, support, and sustain programs that ensure access, equity, and diversity so that all students have the opportunity to fulfill their dreams.
When encouraging our students to establish goals and dream, we must be mindful that we are not sending messages or microinequities that may unconsciously put limits on their dreams. Instead, we can provide them with the guidance, support, and feedback they need to build their self-efficacy and accomplish their dream. Dr. Mae Jemison, the first African American female astronaut said, “Never be limited by other people’s limited imagination.” Are you putting limits on your students or are you exposing them to a wide range of career possibilities?
NAPE is dedicated to exposing students to the entire spectrum of career choices, including STEM and nontraditional careers. Ensuring educational equity and workforce diversity is central to NAPE’s mission. We believe in highlighting the contributions and achievements of diverse individuals in all of our programs, but over the next few months, we are putting an intentional focus on individuals from diverse backgrounds. We want to highlight not only well-known individuals like Harriet Tubman, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Susan B. Anthony, and Dr. Mae Jameson, but also “hidden figures” such as Katherine Johnson, the mathematician who calculated the trajectories for the Mercury and Apollo space missions and is featured in the Oscar-nominated film Hidden Figures. At NAPE, we believe in the power of positive, diverse images and narratives that tell the complete story. Unfortunately, many of our traditional textbooks do not tell the stories of people such as Katherine Johnson. However, NAPE remains committed to sharing these stories and encouraging educators to bring missing narratives and hidden figures into their classrooms. As the famous Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie said “stories matter.”1 Indeed, stories matters. Representation matters. Words matter. Dreams matter. And our students matter!
NAPE is committed to helping to educate, engage, and empower the next generation of Dr. Jemisons and Katherine Johnsons. By building the capacity of educators through our research-based professional development, we are fueling the dreams of students across the country. Adlena Jacobs, a teacher from Mesquite Independent School District in Texas and graduate of NAPE’s Micromessagaging to Reach and Teach Every Student Academy, is a NAPE-trained educator who is fueling her students’ dreams. After completing the NAPE Academy in 2015, Adlena was inspired to start a STEM club on her campus where students learn to code and build prototypes and robots. Adlena was recently selected for the NASA Space Educator Expedition Crew Program–a program designed to develop teacher leadership skills through STEM-based learning experiences.
We know there are more success stories to share, and NAPE invites you to share your stories. Tell us how you are helping students reach for the stars. How are you helping students reach their potential and fulfill their dreams? Maybe you remember a person or program that impacted you and helped you reach for the stars. Tell us about it. Email NAPE at email@example.com or post your story on our Facebook page.
- Adichie, C. M. The danger of a single story. Retrieved from http://www.ted.com/talks/chimamanda_adichie_the_danger_of_a_single_story?language=en