I firmly believe that children and adults can succeed in life and in education when they are supported and encouraged by educators who genuinely care about them. In the two decades that I have been teaching, I have known this kind of success for myself. I am also the daughter of two parents who have loved her genuinely. My parents are not perfect, but, I know that they care about me, and even when we were uncomfortable and challenged as a family. They loved me, as best they could. It was first their love that gave me the confidence that I needed to succeed in life.
I also believe that in order for black women and men to be respected in professional settings, they have to be visible and seen as credible in their respective professional settings. In other words, they have to “be there,” be present, on a regular basis. They have to be empowered, in positions of authority, and able to exercise their own expressions of power, which should be understood by reasonable adults as admirable and equitable.
Thus, when it comes to education, it is my mission to “be there” for children and adults who are learning and becoming critical thinkers about life and love. Why do I say love? Because in a loveless and hate-filled world, I believe that acting in love and with love is one of the most courageous things that we can do. Thus, helping others to develop their critical thinking skills (developing the ability to go beyond the ordinary or the superficial) is a labor of love. It empowers students to make sense of the non-sensical. Teaching critical thinking requires a commitment to teaching at many levels, and a commitment to teaching will always be challenged by students and by the institutions in which we learn. Sometimes learning is uncomfortable; yet, we know that humans learn the most when when we are uncomfortable and when we are challenged. Learning this way is always worth it.
In conclusion, I believe that good teachers and good students are learning the most when we are willing and able to be uncomfortable and challenged in the learning process. Becoming an educated person and a literate society are not ideals that are merely given to us; education will not magically or mysteriously happen or “take care of itself.” On the contrary, we must put forth effort and commitment into the development of our minds, and our actions will reflect the time and energy that we put in to educating ourselves. When it comes to teaching and to loving, this is my philosophy and this is my mission. It works if we work it!
Dr. Annalise Fonza