The Caged Bird

This post is a continuation of my autobiography readings and applying lessons learned for educators. The latest book was a special treat as I listened to the audio version of “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” read by the author, Maya Angelou. The story was already extremely moving, but hearing it read by the author added another level of poignancy to it. As with the other biographies, I had to let the information and the memories shared settle in my brain before I could write a post about what I had gleaned. That was especially true with this book. Here are a few highlights from the book that apply to the world of education.

READ: She wasn’t just an avid reader her entire life, she LOVED books. Even her earliest memories from childhood included stories that she read and loved. Throughout the book, literary references are provided that helped her contextualize events and often gave her the upper hand when dealing with situations. They were a retreat and a weapon that she used time and again. It’s no wonder she would turn her love of reading into a love of writing. As educators, we need to help our students develop that passion for reading. How can do this? By example and by getting books into their hands. When they see us reading and sharing, they may do the same. The greater access our students have to books, the greater chance they will find that book that may spark a love of reading for their entire life!

Graduation Ceremony: One of the memories she shared was of her eighth grade graduation ceremony. As she proudly waited for her diploma (this was in the 40’s), a white man came into gymnasium to give the commencement speech. In his brief presentation, he was able to shatter her pride in graduating and reinforce the expectations that the only way for a black student to succeed was through athletics. He talked about how new science and reading materials had been purchased for the white school and shared with pride that the athletic fields at her high school were to be renovated. He then promptly left before the ceremony had concluded for a more pressing engagement. As a school principal, I cringed through this chapter and felt embarrassed and angry at his actions. One of my goals My most important goal as an administrator is to inspire those around me and to teach every student to believe that anything is possible IF they work for it. We are in the dream accomplishing business, not the dream crushing business.

Mrs. Flowers and Miss Kirwin: Two people are described in the book who made a significant impact on her education. This first was not in school, but in the form of an adult who took an interest in her, spent one on one time with her, read books to her, listened to her read, and also taught the art of social etiquette. Mrs. Flowers made a lasting impression for the individual attention she gave. On the contrary, the one and only teacher that she mentioned (or even remembered) in her writings didn’t treat her any differently or spend any additional time with her at all. Miss Kirwin had the remarkable quality of treating ALL students with a level of dignity and respect that Maya had never known before. Another quality that she had was the ability to start each child with a clean slate every day. No matter the mistake or behavior the day before, she started without a grudge. No matter how well a student performed the day before, she started without any favorites. It was that universal respect and high expectations for everyone that kept Miss Kirwin in her memories for her entire life.

I could go on and on about things that stayed with me from this book, but the overarching theme is overcoming adversity. I think this quote accurately summarizes the stories and memories she shared in this book, “We may encounter many defeats but we must not be defeated“. She didn’t just survive in the face of adversity, she thrived in it. We may not be able to keep hardship and adversity from our students, but we can help them develop the strength and model the character that will help them to not only survive, but thrive!

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“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou

“If you’re always trying to be normal you will never know how amazing you can be.” – Maya Angelou

“I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.” – Maya Angelou

#SaturdayShoutOut – Brian Butler

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  • Monday, April 13: Return from “Spring Break”:)
  • Thursday, April 16: Academic Update Google Meet at 1:00 PM
  • Friday, April 17: Learning Activities for the week of April 20 sent out by 4:30 PM

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