Rainbows and Unicorns

by Jalauna Phillips

Do you remember exactly where you were when they announced that the world was shutting down?

I do.

I was in the scorching sun of Panama City Beach, Florida, enjoying my sophomore year spring break with one of my good friends, Alyssa. Everything happened so fast. One minute, everything was all sunny and bright, and the next, empty roads and business closures

One day, we will recognize how bleak the pandemic really was. But that's not what’s on my heart.

What I really want to say is rainbows and unicorns.

A while back ago, my pessimistic father asked if that’s how I see the world. I was offended at first, not gonna lie, but after thinking and journaling about it, I said yes. I do see the world through rainbows and unicorns.

I don’t think my father meant it as a slight to my personality. I just dont think someone who has been through so much can understand how someone could have so much optimism. That's not to say that I don't see the thunderstorms or reality. It means that I choose to see the world through a lens of hope and joy. Through colors and fantasy. Rainbows and unicorns.

On August 1st, I started my teaching career. I was fresh out of college with the hope of making a difference. With two full weeks of professional development, I felt prepared to lead and be in front of a classroom.

I got humbled - real - quick.

School started for the kids on a Thursday. I expected those two days to be a little chaotic. But as I sit here on the Friday of our first full week, I can hear my fathers pessimism echoing in my brain.

“It’s hopeless”, “you’ll never get through to them”, “there's nothing you can do”.

This first week was full of screaming, repeating myself, questioning if I chose the right job, and staring blankly at the ceiling before I went to bed.

Schools are a unique place. They are a melting pot of learners. Students who have different levels of education, different cultures, different home situations, several different life experiences and varying degrees of awareness. In addition to that, most of the students are POC, adding additional factors to the mix.

In the first week, a student said my hair was crusty, while another said I was wearing too much mascara. How am I supposed to teach when the kids are roasting me like a pig at the Fair? Is there a way to professionally roast a child? I digress.

The attitude, the sass, the talking back, the constant chatter are things I expect from older students, not students who haven’t even hit double digits.

But I can’t give up that easy.

Yes these kids are entering our building with loads of trauma, different backgrounds and special learning needs but also with so much fire in their hearts. When I stand at the door to welcome in the students, a part of me waits for little Jalauna to walk around the corner with her rainbow and unicorn bookbag, afraid and sassy but with so much fire in her heart.

I can't let that fire fizzle out.

We have to find a way to meet these kids where they are and give them the education that they deserve. “For it is our light not our darkness that most frightens us. Playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking. As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others the courage to do so and as we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.'

I am not here to prove myself, I am here to liberate, to educate and to love.

Here’s to all of the educators out there who possess the power of mothers, fathers, teachers, mentors, social workers and friends… I hope this will be the best year yet!

Love and light always,
Jalauna aka Ms. Phillips :)

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