Vultures

They pick your carcass until nothing is left.

You were vulnerable and available.

They encircled you. They sailed around your body –

Rotten, once a beauty with flowing feathers

until they started picking them off, one by one.

First during sun, then at dark.

You tried to hide, you tried to redirect.

They rejected it all.

They only want you; they torment you.

Stuck like glue, to you and only you.

Vultures.

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Driving down Wesley Russell road in Farmerville.

Dirt roads meander, memories form –

sweet blackberries, persimmons, figs, dandelion necklaces.

I remember asking Biggy what happened to my pet chicken

as we dined on crisp drumsticks for lunch and dumplings

for dinner. Peanut butter or ice cream for dessert –

depending on if Uncle Shug wanted to take his red Pickup

down the road. He worked so hard. Loved so hard.

Elders forever touch souls, pave ways. Toil and persevere

for our fortune, burgeoning with pride. I know they look

down, delighting in progress. We stand on their shoulders.

They lifted us. Hydrangeas, well water, mud pies and

watermelon. Memories. Welded for eternity. We are them.

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We need you. Those of you that toil through the day and plan through the night. Not because you were told to, but because you care… — Letter to Educators We need you. Those of you that toil through the day and plan through the night. Not because you were told to, but because you care. Teaching has always been hard. It’s definitely not for the faint of heart or for those seeking fortune. Your riches will not always be tangible. There is no price tag for what good teachers do for students. I remember my French teacher and my Algebra teacher vividly. The experiences that they provided for me are the very reason I am in this profession. My French teacher was a master at balance. We practiced the alphabet and the numbers and the common phrases over and over, again and again. We conjugated verbs. We were quizzed. But then she would let us make crepes and have us practice French words, singing songs outside near the oak tree. Tres bien. My algebra teacher took what was foreign to me and unlocked the mystery of quadratic equations. She never gave up on me. If I still didn’t understand during class, she would offer tutoring outside of class. She never made me feel inferior for not knowing. We need these types of teachers. Don’t give up now. If no one has told you, let me be the first to remind you that you are a difference maker. You are planting seeds that will eventually bloom. Covid has affected so many things, including education. Time will reveal how it has all impacted students and educators. We are not back to normal. We continue to make adjustments as new variants arise. We should still have the same focus that we had before March of 2020 — kids. What do kids need? What is best for them? Are we aware of their physiological needs so that we can get to the educational needs? And not just the students, what about the needs of educators? If you are in despair and you have no idea what to do next to help your students, as well as yourself, reach out. Find an experienced teacher or someone that may be in a similar situation and see how you can support each other. Address what you can control first, not the things that you can’t. Having someone to talk to early in my career made all of the difference. My mentor teacher was literally next door. I could ask her anything. No question was too silly, no problem was too overwhelming. I ran into her a couple of years ago and I was sure to thank her again. She made a difference. Do not journey alone. And I know that there are also those that are truly, completely, equivocally at the end of their rope. No peer, professional development or pep talk can help. They see no way forward. In fact, they are harming more than they are helping. They may need to contemplate other options. It’s one thing to be temporarily tormented by all of the responsibilities of an educator, but it’s another thing to be so checked out and complacent that you allow kids to do whatever. You don’t challenge them. I am talking about those that gave up long before Covid. This job may not be for them. We understand. This mission isn’t for everyone and our kids are precious resources that deserve care, compassion and instruction. For those that are aware of their calling and just need a little more help, my hope for you is that your leaders listen. They trust you. They have empathy. They partner with you; they don’t just preach to you. They value your expertise and they do everything to illuminate your gifts so that students thrive. My hope for you is something that I recently read from Simon Sinek, “We imagine a world in which the vast majority of people wake up every day inspired, feel safe wherever they are and end the day fulfilled by the work they do.” To provide this is the charge for all of us.

Tanesha Russell Yusuf

Tanesha Russell Yusuf

T.R.Y. Life learner, mother, daughter, poet, teacher, rights crusader. Always on a mission.