Why I Teach: It’s My Responsibility

by | Dec 9, 2022 | Blog


Kia Debnam, Buffalo


Why do I teach?

I teach to empower; to give all children the efficacy to make informed, world changing decisions. I teach to model the capacity to be a figure of authority, and still love and show empathy.

Education has evolved past the obsolete notion that there is only one truth; I teach so that the next generation will question — everything. The classroom should be a place where we set children’s minds free; where we give them the courage to become scientists, astronauts, mathematicians, historians, authors, artists, and leaders every single day.

Within the Black community, and for other communities of people of color, education is the primary solution to being generationally exploited and targeted. “If you know better, you do better.” For hundreds of years, our languages were taken from us. For hundreds of years, we were forbidden to read or write. For hundreds of years, we were forced to be afraid of knowledge. Now that we have the freedom, everyone is still afraid.

I teach so that we are fearless. I teach so that my people, and our skin, have a voice, both within our history and our education system. There’s an ancient African proverb, “Until the lion learns to write, History will always glorify the hunter.”

I teach because I speak the language of my students — verbally, and non-verbally. The vernaculars which comprise the English language are numerous and distinctive. Ironically, though most students speak these vernaculars, they struggle to access the academic English that dominates the classroom; speaking both, I help to bridge that fissure. Through scaffolding, making inferences, and connecting new knowledge to previous, my students make the information tangible. My tone and verve perpetuate the learning styles which are prevalent at home. I marry the comfortable with the uncomfortable.

I teach because it is my gift and my responsibility. Within my culture, the young people are charged with zeal, while the old are charged with wisdom. It is imperative that in accessing the wisdom and knowledge of my elders, I pass this knowledge on in a way which is both true and heard — a way which ensures that the next generation of Brown and Black children change the world for the better.

Kia Debnam teaches K-12 English as a New Language in the Buffalo Public Schools.