I feel the same philosophy guides me today. It was watching the joy in my wife's face that drove me to want to become a teacher. After serving in the military I found that my ability to see learning within a child had diminished with the wars I had experienced. It was my wife Jolene and an assistant principal named Arlena Ray who first mentored me in 1997. It is Arlena Ray who today, after moving from Iceland to Belgium is still my mentor and supervisor.
There was once incident that stands out to me very well. It was when she was telling my why she felt Department of Defense Dependent Schools needed "me" to become a teacher. I was substitute teaching at the time and was always getting called to sub for the middle school students and felt I should be called for the high school classes because my major was history and art. In a sense I felt middle school was too low for me. Ms. Ray asked me if I would like to conduct my student teaching in both middle school Geography and AP US History. I accepted and when it came time to do my student teaching I worked with two teachers and presented my lesson plans for the units. Both teachers agreed and I began student teaching in the two areas. In 7th grade geography I did a unit on Africa and brought two students from Kenya to class who were in my Icelandic Humanities class at the University of Iceland I was attending. They brought some artifacts from their homeland and taught the students some Swahili (called Kiswahili in the language itself) phrases. In the AP US History class I taught the unit on the sixties because I grew up 30 miles from Woodstock, New York and my uncle was a Black Panther.
Both units were exciting and enjoyable to teach. My assessor from the University of Phoenix was impressed but it was the talk I had with Ms. Ray later that helped me find my direction. She asked me what I thought about the experience. I informed her that even though the Advance Placement class was on a topic I knew well, I felt that since I knew it too well I was board even thought the students were interested in my lectures. I informed her that the middle school students seemed to have a fire in their eyes when they were learning Swahili and making masks based on the ones the Kenyan students brought.
Ms. Ray told me that DoDDS has very few African American male teachers in the middle and high schools and that the students were drawing off of my excitement and saw me as a role model. She told me that the high school students were more self directed and had already been influenced from middle school. She showed me that to reach a middle school student is to change the high school. She showed me that by being a role model for so many African American male students in middle school I could show them and influence them to aspire to become more in high school when the credits begin to count. Each year Ms. Ray and I get together for brunch (I cook for her) and we talk about where we started from, where I am now and where I see my educational career going. She does not let up on my becoming a principal one day, she always has advice for me in the classroom, and I always listen.
When my career started out I was fresh out of the military with 44 college credits to my name. It was important for Ms. Ray to utilize maximum supervisory responsibility in order for me to acquire the skills I needed to feel comfortable in the role of educator. When I completed my Bachelors in History and Art Ms. Ray assumed the role of minimum supervisory responsibility. Even though I had the knowledge, I had not yet fully acquired the teaching skills needed to become and effective educator. As I began my Master's degree in secondary education Ms. Ray began to allow me to assume minimum teacher responsibility. I was gaining the skills and knowledge needed to manage a class but I still had difficulty with behavior issues. She was able to show me that the behaviors that bothered me the most from students were the ones that I myself had acquired in school. I had to let go of those behaviors, see and accept them as wrong. It was only at this point that Ms. Ray allowed me maximum teacher responsibility and put me in charge of the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) in the school. This was exactly what I needed because "AVID targets students in the academic middle - B, C, and even D students - who have the desire to go to college and the willingness to work hard.Â These are students who are capable of completing rigorous curriculum but are falling short of their potential.Â Typically, they will be the first in their families to attend college, and many are from low-income or minority families.Â AVID pulls these students out of their unchallenging courses and puts them on the college track: acceleration instead of remediation."Â (AVIDonline, 2006). These are the students Ms. Ray wanted me to reach and fulfil Goal 3 of DoDEA's Community Strategic Plan for 2006 when she picked me for the position as AVID teacher/coordinator which states that, "DoDEA recruitment and retention efforts will focus on achieving a motivated, high-performing, diverse workforce, to include persons with disabilities" and, "Demographic information will be collected on new hires and the current workforce, such as race, ethnicity, disability, periodic surveys, and shortage skill categories."
The 8 Directive Control Continuums of Behaviors may not have been taught when Ms. Ray first became a teacher and administrator, but as I look back at the ten years I have known her and all the guidance she has given me and my wife I feel they were based on her knowledge, experience, strength and hope that education in DoDDS would open its doors to minorities. I also feel that she decided she would help it and me along. For this I say thank you Ms. Arlena Ray.