A Tale of Two Back to School Nights

Excitement and enthusiasm were in the air as teachers in my new high school in a middle class neighborhood prepared their classrooms by decorating their bulletin boards, displaying student work, and straightening desks. Welcome messages abounded, Remind.com messages were sent, and we opened our doors to meet the parents.
I have done these events for 24 years, four times a year at my former school in South Central L.A. But this year’s Back to School Night left me reflecting, and perhaps shedding a tear.
First, my new parents were fantastic. They were friendly, enthusiastic, and supportive of the new ideas I bring to the school. I knew in them I would have allies to incorporate my findings from my Fulbright exchange in Finland earlier this year. Parent after parent nodded their heads and strongly affirmed that break time was important to students, teachers, and workers in general. They were excited to hear about the summer travel programs I had prepared.
As I looked at their warm and s…

Who is AvalonSensei?

Who is AvalonSensei? A teacher dedicated to her students, devoted 100%.

In 2009 I joined Twitter as a way to call attention to the disproportionate affect that the teacher layoffs would have on communities in South Central L.A. By connecting with other teachers and the public I hoped to somehow shield my school and others from the tragedy to come. I implored the school board to “Don’t Forget South Central” and began to write in earnest about what it means to be a teacher in a hard to staff school.

Avalon Boulevard is where my school, Los Angeles Academy, was located and because teaching is my identity, I called myself AvalonSensei.

I suppose before that I was BroadwaySensei when I worked at Bethune Middle School, and BaldwinHillsSensei before that. But now, I have ended my tenure at L.A. Academy. Am I still AvalonSensei?

Students and parents of mine know when I teach at a school, it is more than just a job. It is a profession in which I embrace with zeal and affection. Those are MY students and I will fight for the best for them. The parents are my partners because we are a team committed to their children’s success.

But am I still AvalonSensei?

Starting this fall, I will be a teacher at Taft Charter High School in Woodland Hills, CA, a school in the Los Angeles Unified School District, but worlds apart from South Central L.A. Students there are high schoolers in their last years of childhood, almost young adults really, getting ready to enter our society full of challenges unlike anything seen in recent times. They will need guidance and support, and knowledge of how to navigate the world with kindness and empathy. And I, will throw myself into work like I have each of the 23 years prior to this one.

As I get ready to start work later this month, I will conclude 3 months of intense lesson planning, resource gathering, and content training. My daughter and husband will help me decorate my room. And I will start my 24th year of teaching full of excitement and anticipation for what my 200 students and I will achieve together.

I should no longer be AvalonSensei. My new students deserve the same dedication that all 4405 have received. @WinnetkaSensei seems like the logical handle (and it’s available).  But here’s the thing; I can’t forget how brave my students are and have been. How through the toughest of circumstances they rose through the challenges and fought for a better life. I will serve many communities and organizations in different capacities, but I will never be prouder of the work I have done on the South Side.

Who is AvalonSensei? It is me.


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