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Friday, January 20, 2017

Frederick Douglass' Words Inspire

Guy Peartree brings the life of Frederick Douglass to students.
(photo credit: J. Mattson)

"This battle with Mr. Covey was the turning-point in my career as a slave. It rekindled the few expiring embers of freedom, and revived within me a sense of my own manhood. It recalled the departed self-confidence, and inspired me again with a determination to be free. The gratification afforded by the triumph was a full compensation for whatever else might follow, even death itself. He only can understand the deep satisfaction which I experienced, who has himself repelled by force the bloody arm of slavery. I felt as I never felt before. It was a glorious resurrection, from the tomb of slavery, to the heaven of freedom. My long-crushed spirit rose, cowardice departed, bold defiance took its place; and I now resolved that, however long I might remain a slave in form, the day had passed forever when I could be a slave in fact. I did not hesitate to let it be known of me, that the white man who expected to succeed in whipping, must also succeed in killing me." (10.12)

As we listened to Guy Peartree give a living history presentation of Frederick Douglass, it was the depiction of Douglass' fight with Covey that stood with me. When Peartree relayed that once Douglass realized that no one could enslave his mind, his fortitude, and his confidence that strengthens me.

As educators, at this time, there's challenges all around us. So many want to control our days, tell us what to do, and take our confidence, voice, and choice away. This is discouraging for those of us who have committed substantial time, heart, and investment in our careers with the hopes of helping students learn, achieve, and live good lives.

We know what teacher leaders, distributive leadership, greater voice and choice, and empowerment can bring to our profession and our schools. We recognize that when we come together to serve all children well, we do better.

No way can I ever fully understand what a man like Douglass experienced, but I can draw strength from his words and experience--strength that will help me to serve students better and live my life well. Today we'll meet to discuss the needs of children with respect to math. We'll listen to many who have thoughts and data about this. We will share ideas and perhaps craft an improved route to teaching these students well. As I listen I'll continue to think about the amazing life of Frederick Douglass, a man who risked much for education and freedom, and a man whose voice still inspires almost 200 years after his birth.