A Teacher Creates a Safe Space for Sharing
“No way! I’m not going to be a teacher,” Adrienne Staten declared after she graduated with her B.A. in English in 1992. But the 8th grade students of Grover Washington Jr. Middle School are very fortunate that Ms. Staten’s life had some surprises in store.
While working at the Germantown YWCA, Adrienne was given the responsibility of overseeing the Gateway program to promote adult literacy in the community. “I fell in love with teaching!” Adrienne shared. From there she was hooked. Adrienne went back to school to earn her certification and sixteen years later she still loves it. OK, most days she loves it.
Adrienne made the shift from teaching high school to middle school last year. Right away she started the Grover Girls club—-an opportunity for girls to gather and talk openly and honestly about the challenges in their lives. Confidentiality was critical for this small group of girls and the sharing and support was deeply meaningful.
Adrienne’s willingness to connect with her students beyond the confines of the textbook and curriculum is the reason she started off her Need in Deed project with the thirty-four 8th grade girls in her homeroom. She says, “I wanted to make sure that topic we focused on would be meaningful for them as they prepare to embark on their high school years.”
The girls brainstormed a list of issues they saw in their community that concerned them. By the time the list was narrowed down to six topics (insecurity, drug addiction, teen pregnancy, abortion, unhealthy relationships and drop out prevention), Adrienne knew that she needed to help the students see the relationship between the issues. The class is now analyzing the real life story of Kemba Smith - a high-achieving young woman whose life went off the rails for a number of years as the result of some very bad choices - and finding clear connections.
While we don’t know yet what shape the project will take, Adrienne’s guidance and commitment to the process will create a safe and supportive environment that allows her students to address a need in the community and become more confident young women in the process. They certainly have a great role model in their teacher. At Need in Deed, we can’t wait to watch the journey unfold.
Adrienne Staten won a Need in Deed My Voice Web award this month.