In July, I moved up here from my college town in Louisiana having only been in New England once— on visit day. I came here determined to learn as much as I could about language and literacy, meet fascinating Professors, and be involved in everything I could be. But, that’s not what happened. I mean on face value, yes, I was involved outside of the classroom up to my eyeballs (literally so involved it hurt sometimes), I met amazing faculty, and I gained knowledge in the field. However, in these things I did even more important work— I had conversations about culture, equity, and society in ways that I never imagined; I imagined ways to improve my classroom and public districts, reimagined them, and talked about them with passionate educators and professors from all over the world; I learned about myself through coursework, involvement, and nights spent belly-ache laughing on the HUNAP (Harvard University Native American Program) couch with four of the greatest women I’ve ever known. So, this is my thank-you to those who made this experience exceed my expectations.
I could never list all the people who contributed, but of course, I’m going to attempt to anyways. First, the HGSE student community. It really is like a family—a family that pushes you to expand your consciousness, dishes out sarcasm better than even myself, and gives you their yogurt when you have class until 8pm and didn’t have a chance to eat that day (true story and you’re still the real MVP). I really could never list all of you, but just know I’m talking about every single one of you. Second, HUNAP and FIERCE. Cute Instagram captions aside, they are the greatest people you’ll ever meet. Thank you for being shoulders to cry on, bad influences on my restaurant budget and diet, and beautiful souls. Shelly, Jason, Sam, Damon, Megan, Jordan, Danielle, and Autumn (and Alice), thank you. Third, Tracie and OSA. Is there anything y’all didn’t do for us? I can never thank you enough for the support of FIERCE, HHEI, and me as a student. Fourth and finally, all the professors and other faculty that have had an impact on my learning (including Andrena, my Program Administrator). I am exceedingly thankful for every course I’ve taken this year and the impact it will have on my practice.
As the year closes out, I’m thankful, reflective, and looking forward to a new adventure. When I started the job search, a few people asked me what I was going to be doing next year and were disappointed that I was “just” going to teach. I began to feel like maybe that was an inadequate reach after finishing a master’s program, so I looked into things like research fellowships and central office jobs. However, my heart always returned to teaching. Sometimes in society we devalue teaching as a job that is beneath us once we get experience and education, and while one day I want to pursue a doctorate and leadership, I’m glad I didn’t listen to the little tug to get a higher up job that I don’t actually want. Next year, I’ll be moving back to Dallas, Texas, and teaching ninth grade English as the founding ELAR teacher of a new Dallas ISD public school. It is without reservation that I say HGSE and the beautiful, innovative, empathetic educators I’ve been blessed with meeting have prepared me for my next steps. I can’t wait to incorporate the learning I’ve done this year into my classroom and into some exciting community work outside of the classroom as well (stay tuned). And, in true English teacher fashion, I’ve written this poem to celebrate and look forward.
It radiates with curiosity and bad fluorescent lighting—
Not always inviting.
But a place of promise and future
A place of questioning and, sometimes, confusion
Begging for men and women who care, with innovation and passion at their core—
Not afraid to challenge the status quo and demand the system for more.
More love, equity, support, student voice
Not just more, better, way better
Resources are thin, but the year is long—
Not a simple task that gives birth to a summer vacation song.
It is a place, a place of government and systemic failure
A place of promises
A place of promise
They serve students in abundance—
Sometimes in a monotony of redundance.
But in August I embark to transform
Into a home
Surrounded by springtime bluebonnets and Texas heat, adventure awaits—
Adventure to anticipate.
It awaits in the halls, the young lives,
In the coffee shops I’ve yet to explore
And in familiar streets
And the sunshine of the south
And the lullabies of thunderstorms
Within the complex system of both sunshine and thunderstorms—
Wado and donadagvhoi (thank you and see you later), HGSE.
Kaci McClure is a Master’s of Education candidate in the Language and Literacy program. Her primary passions are increasing literacy skills among high school students; addressing inequity in low-income, largely minority schools; and culturally responsive teaching. A transplant out of Louisiana who originally hails from Texas, Kaci has an affinity for sweet tea, spicy food, and the word “y’all.” She’s also an avid supporter of conscious rap and frybread, neither correlated to the other but both very powerful.