Several factors and elements go into being an educator.
Whether it is superintendent, administration, faculty or staff, once men or women join the educational field, they are taking on a challenging career. Although programs are set up to try to prepare first-year teachers, veteran educator Candous Brown is sharing her story in the new book, “The Life of an Educator: What My Teacher Education Program DIDN’T Teach Me.”
“Initially when I wrote it, the book started off as a devotional,” she said. “I just wanted to give people some inspiration because I know how hard it is to be a first-year teacher and that I really didn’t have much assistance and mentoring. I just want to give new education some inspiration through their days because the first couple of years are the hardest.”
Back on April 14, 2015, Brown was looking for a way to express her thoughts and concerns about her changing profession. It was 11 years ago when the 2003 Millington Central High School graduate took her first job at Trezevant High School in Memphis as an English teacher.
Fast forward to 2013, and the landscape of education in the area transformed from the separate Memphis City Schools and Shelby County Schools districts to just SCS. Then in 2014, Shelby County municipalities separated, leaving several SCS schools located within the Memphis city limits or destined to become charters.
Brown, a busy mother to her son, Christopher, was inspired by her relationship with God to write a book giving an inside look at her profession. Then she put the project down for a while.
“Last year I picked it back up again,” she said. “I actually got some encouragement from a friend. He was like, ‘You need to go ahead and finish it to help some people.’ But everything about it started to change. So I kept the scriptures I already had for it.
“I was like, ‘The only way I would be able to help somebody truthfully and fully is by telling my story,’” Brown continued. “So I started journaling about some of the things I had been through over those years – major memories I had. And I shaped it from that. I started to putting something in it I had learned from experience as opposed to what I learned from my Teacher’s Education Program.”
Brown said experience is the best teacher and what she learned firsthand shaped the book, “The Life of an Educator.”
While earning her bachelor’s degree at Christian Brothers University, Brown got redirected to her true calling in life.
“I got pregnant,” she acknowledged. “I originally started as a biology major. I wanted to be a doctor. That’s what I wanted to be my whole life. I wanted to go to med school. I got into those science programs, and my advisor wasn’t the most helpful.
“I accidentally became an English major,” Brown added. “Just went from there and then my senior year I was pregnant with my son. I just tried to figure it out from there. ‘What am I going to do with this English degree that is still going to allow me to take care of my son? You should be a teacher.’ I prayed about it. ‘If this is what I am supposed to do, I’m just going to do it.’”
Graduating in 2007, Brown went on to earn her master’s in teaching five years later from CBU. Meanwhile, her professional journey began in the Frayser area via Trezevant. That is where the book starts with the chapter, “In the Beginning.” Chapter 2 is titled “Trial and Error.” By Chapter 3’s “Growing Pains,” you get a full understanding of Brown’s heart, mind and soul.
After one year at Trezevant, she traveled to South Memphis to teach English at Kirby. Then it was time for a four-year stint at Frayser High School before it became Martin Luther King Jr. Prep.
Brown’s next school home was Dexter Middle, and now she has called Raleigh-Egypt home for the past four years, teaching English from grades eight to 12 and courses like African-American literature.
In addition to lesson plans, assignments, projects, field trips and encouragement toward the college path, Brown got an quick education that her students needed other things, like discipline.
“I don’t take any mess,” she declared. “I learned that early on. When I started I was really young. I looked young. I had people stopping me in the hallway, ‘Where is your uniform? Where is your badge?’ I had to show them my ID. ‘I work here.’ After the first couple of weeks, I stopped wearing heels because you’ve got to get rough with some of those kids.
“I had kids getting in my face, cursing me and trying to intimidate me,” Brown continued. “This is not what you want. I’m not a fighter but you’ve got to learn how to battle some of this stuff. Now being at Raleigh-Egypt, those kids don’t live up to the reputation Raleigh has. It’s not bad like people think it is. It’s the reputation the neighborhoods that surround the school have. The kids are not like that. If it was, I wouldn’t be up there anyway.”
Brown almost walked away from teaching while at Trezevant. Before she could pray about it and seek spiritual guidance, Brown was in the process of leaving the campus.
“A student caught me,” she recalled. “She said, ‘Don’t leave. We need you. If you leave, we won’t have any other teachers who care about us.’ I said, ‘Let me take myself back into this classroom.’ If I can reach just a few, then I’ve done my job.”
In the book Brown reveals her secret to surviving the early day was the word of God. It became a part of her daily routine to read the Bible and certain scriptures. Those passages are available in the “TESTimony” chapter of the book.
Those verses touched her heart in a way to helped her endure the larger classes and brought her peace.
“People who don’t wear the shoes don’t understand how much pressure there is on us,” Brown said. “Especially if you teach a core subject. I’ve been in English this whole time. People consistently telling you what you don’t have right. They telling you, ‘You need to change this. This has to be better.’ We don’t get any thank yous.
“When they come back and say thank you, or they write notes, ‘I love you, Ms. Brown,’ I tape those to my desk,” she added. “When I have hard times those are the things I look at, and I touch that when it gets hard.”
So when her colleagues are having hard times and enduring tough moments with the job, Brown wants her book to serve as a source of comfort, inspiration or a how-to-guide.
“I just want it to be helpful because I didn’t really have help,” she said. “To give anybody who is considering becoming an educator, staying in the classroom or even considering leaving there is some light at the end of the tunnel. It’s not the same school to school, room to room or student to student.
“It’s different and what people people make it out to be,” Brown concluded. “I want to give them some of my personal experience and let them know if I made it through, you can too.”
“The Life of an Educator,” is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble and will be on shelves at Walmart. For more information, contact Brown at email@example.com, visit mscsbrown12.wixsite.com/website or call (731) 300-2636.