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Teacher Hardships & When It's Okay To Think About Other Paths

Connect with Drew on LinkedIn here: Drew Singleton

Age: 24

Job: 3rd Grade Reading & Science Teacher

Location: Washington, D.C.

Drew and I connected through Dan, a college friend of Drew's and recent YoPro interview. What I enjoyed about Drew's story was his drive towards being a teacher after learning one statistic: that only 2% of all teachers are black males. Not only is Drew in this role so he can lead future generations, but he is also laying the groundwork to be a leader in the field one day.

Give us a brief background on yourself.

I was born and raised in Washington, DC and I am 24 years old. I am a third-grade reading and science teacher and I teach at a Catholic school in Georgetown.

How did you get into teaching? Is this your first career post-college?

This is my first full-time job after graduating in 2018 from Ohio Wesleyan University. At the end of college, I did my student teaching in Chicago for about four months to get my teaching license. After that, I was looking around at schools for the next school year trying to figure out what I wanted to do, and then I got lucky. I had a connection with the principal at the school where I am now, so I reached out to him. It turned out he had a long-term sub position available, so I took that, and then at the end of my time there, he said they would love to keep me around. I typically teach middle school, but they had a lower school opening, so I decided to move into that role and have been here ever since.

What do you love about teaching?

Well, for me personally, I got into teaching because I actually read a statistic that only 2% of all teachers are black males. That is something that sort of stuck with me, and because I have always just had a lot of patience and love working with kids, it felt natural for me to move into this role. I just sort of fell in love with it. I thought about my background and how I only had two black male teachers from kindergarten to my senior year of college and that really motivated me. I try to show kids that view of a black male in a positive role, not just for young black students, but all students. I think it's important for them to see black males in this role.

Have you experienced any hardships and if so, how did you overcome them?

I've had mentors over the last few years tell me that the first year is always going to be the hardest. I definitely have experienced that: just the stress of figuring everything out, trying to figure out how you want to run your own classroom and how you want to develop yourself as a teacher. Figuring all of that out while simultaneously adjusting to life in the real-world is tough, but I wouldn’t say I have experienced any serious hardships. To me, we all have to experience that. I felt like I was pretty well prepared, which helped a lot.

Can you talk about a time where you felt like you made an impact in a student's life?

There's was one student in Chicago who was 13 years old and was on house arrest when he was my student. He was in a gang and he had a really rough background. I remember the first day of school, he didn't like me as the new teacher, and he was kind of standoffish. I remember telling him to turn in a certain assignment and he responded by telling me that I was only a student teacher. He then said, "Oh, you're not a real teacher, I don't have to listen to you." I was taken aback and just stared at him. We basically had a standoff and I realized he was just trying to get a reaction from me. This continued for a while, and then he ended up in a program I helped run at the time called the Gentry Club. We worked with eighth grade boys, teaching them how to be gentlemen. Showing handshakes, how to open the door for someone, proper table manners and stuff like that. He didn't want to be a part of this club, but the principal required it. Over time, he started opening up a little bit more to me and we built a relationship. On my last day, all of the guys dressed up, lined up, and gave me handshakes we had taught them. This particular student stayed back and said, “You know, Mr. Singleton, thank you so much. You're going to be a really great teacher.” I felt like I could really see his growth in that moment and it was a great end to that year.

Where do you see yourself going next?

One short term goal that I have is to teach abroad, at least for a year. Long-term, I just went to a conference in Seattle called the People Of Color conference, and they spoke about how there's a huge lack in heads of school that are people of color. I felt very inspired after this conference to sort of make that a long-term goal of mine. I would love to eventually become a head of school or principal if I can to help beat that statistic one day. I mentioned the 2% number earlier, but I’m sure there are even less than that for principals. That would just be a really huge accomplishment if I can reach that.

What would you tell a young professional looking to get into education?

We need more young male teachers and male teachers of color. I think that young boys need to see that, not because they are not getting great guidance and support from their female teachers, but because it offers an opportunity to connect with young boys on a different level. It gives them a great role model, which helps motivate students to do better in general. So we need more, but on another note, I would say you should move into education if you have the right kind of drive. This field loves having young people because of our ideas and fresh mindsets. I think it’s definitely an easy profession to thrive in as a young professional but also especially a young male.

Any last-minute advice?

I would say to just try as much as you can. When I was going into college, I didn't have an idea of what I wanted to do. I didn't even think about being a teacher; I was actually a psychology major. I just happened to try an education class and fell in love with it. Even now, while I am a teacher, I’m thinking about trying other things. Temporarily I thought about bartending or something like that just to try out different things. I think just giving everything an attempt will help, not only to find what you're passionate about, but also what you're good or not good at, and figure out both.

The YoPro Know's Takeaways:

– Your first year is always the hardest

– We all have to face hardships

– Try as much as you can and know that it's okay to think about trying other things

Check it out: Ohio Wesleyan University, People Of Color Conference

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