Black Teachers Matter: Tea Harrison

Why did you choose teaching?
I chose to be a teacher, because I am afraid to die. I don’t mean death in the physical sense. I am working hard to break generational curses. I want my legacy to continue beyond my physical existence. If i can inspire the next artist or spark creativity in a non artistic student, then cool. On a larger scale, if a few students can walk away with a broader perspective on life then I feel like I have succeeded.

Does representation matter in the classroom? Why or why not?
Hell ya! My students don’t care about old, dead, white men whose famous self portraits aren’t even that good anyway (the student’s words, not mine). Things resonate when you can see yourself in them or create them. My students usually perk up as soon as I switch from the PowerPoint slides with Da Vinci and Matisse’s work to slides of Jacob Lawrence, Basquiat, Faith Ringgold, Frida Khalo, Kara Walker, Akira Toriyama, Salvador Dali, Cheri Samba. When I start to tell them the age appropriate stories of these artists’ lives and/or artwork, they instantly become engaged. I usually have to reel the students back in once they start talking about their beloved manga due to time constraints. My point is, things matter when you can connect with them on an emotional level.

Can you name another educator, who had an impact on you as a teacher? 
Jane Elliot, her race experiment was dope as hell, but the thing that really stuck with me is that the school house is much more than teaching ‘subjects’. There are so many opportunities to teach life lessons and things that will actually make a difference in students’ lives.

What is your vision of a leader?
Someone who is teachable, approachable, relatable and willing to get dirty right along with the people they are leading.

What are your current goals? Personal or professional? 
Honestly, at this very moment, I am just trying to make it through each day with a sound mind. During this tough time, that is all I am really asking of my students right now (don’t tell my principal I said that). My plans/goals will probably need to be revised or completely rewritten once we make it to the other side of this pandemic. 

What is the hardest and best part of teaching?
The hardest part is trying to teach one concept to 30-35 different minds at once, given the many variables: abilities, resources, perspectives, experiences, etc.

The best part of teaching is when you’re explaining something and you can literally see the gears turning in a student’s head. Then it finally clicks. The ‘A-ha’ Moment is priceless.

How do you stay motivated?
Understanding the psychology of teaching and learning, researching teaching methods. When my students who email me to tell me how one seemingly insignificant thing that I did or said impacted them so tremendously. And if all else fails I drink wine, cry and look forward to summer break.

If you could pass on any wisdom to your students, what would you share?
I would tell my students that it’s ok. Your race, your pace. I didn’t have it all together in high school. I was well into adulthood before I finally figured my life out and look how I turned out!

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