By Melody McAllister, Guest Blogger
Alexes Terry is pretty amazing. When we talked on Monday in a LIVE stream on Facebook, she openly admitted to being born a crack baby. And yet, looking and hearing her, I would have never known or thought of the fight she had as a young person through adulthood to become the woman she is today: a wife, mother, educator, and author. She is a change maker who uses her personal story to illustrate the power of building relationships with students to meet their deep social, emotional, cultural, and learning needs. In her new book, Real Love: Strategies For Reaching Students Who See No Way Out from EduMatch Publishing, she shares that journey with her readers. It is painful but also full of joy. She freely admits how much she hated and dreaded school, and as an educator herself, she uses that knowledge of her youth to combat the alienation in the students she serves.
I have the privilege of knowing Alexes as a friend and colleague. Supporting her work is easy for me because I know her heart and am amazed by her journey. Drug-addicted parents, in and out of jail, raised by her grandmother and Uncle Benny, at one point, life felt hopeless for Alexes. How often do we have students in our care who feel the same as she did? Do we notice them? Do we know how to care for them? Have we been guilty of letting them go without much concern?
If the answers to those questions left you feeling sick to your stomach, I want to offer you some hope. I don’t remember in teacher college of learning how to deal with the most challenging of students and their parents. We weren’t trained on building community or learning how to comfort parents and their kids who have been left behind or traumatized in our public school system. The truth is, our public school system has left many children behind. Those children grow up into mistrusting young people and then into mistrusting parents. When their own children enter school, there is no trust for our institution or in us as educators. And many times the cycles of leaving school, or feeling like there is no way out plays out in painful statistics.
So I hope many of us will read this amazing book. I’ve read the first half and I’m ready to hold it in my hands to complete. Alexes uses personal anecdotes to keep readers engaged and thoughtful. It’s deep but not draining. Which is pretty miraculous because Alexes truly did defy all the odds with her fighting spirit along with a few high school teachers who truly reached out after seeing promise in her life. Altogether, they propelled her on to do great things–like we should be doing for all students.
Congratulations, Alexes, on your new book with such an important and timely message! But even more, well done for defying the odds and showing educators the power of creating equitable learning spaces that meet the needs of all students. You have been a blessing to the school communities you have served in, and your message will continue to bring change.