"A former drug dealer made good and became a Philly teacher. So why is he thinking of leaving the profession?"
This was the headline of a recent article featuring me in the Philadelphia Inquirer.
While the headline surprised me, (I wondered why I was still being referred to as a former drug dealer), I kept reading. After a few paragraphs, it became clear to me that one could be led to think that I up and decided to quit teaching after my first year because it was just too hard.
These few sentences really jumped out at me.
"Despite the frustrations, he loves teaching. But, he's not sure about the nation's public education system in its current form.
So, like scores of first-year teachers, Trice is mulling plan B; he's decided to go to law school in 2019. And instead of being a shining example of a step in the right direction for the school system, he's headed toward becoming emblematic of a long, worrisome trend."
My phone was really blowing up at this point.
What was worrisome for me is that my friends, colleagues, and likely complete strangers were left wondering how I could have let my first year of teaching get me down so much that I suddenly decided not to return next year. What they didn't understand is that attending law school has always been part of my plan. And when I was asked what my plans were for the fall, I thought it best to be honest about that. I just felt now would be the best time to pursue it.
And while that may not have been clear to some reading the article, the article gave me an opportunity to have a lot of conversations—conversation with friends, colleagues, mentors, and most importantly, myself.
It's true what the article reported: Just 2 percent of the teaching force is made up of African American men. And while the numbers in Philly are slightly better at 5 percent, we have to do better.
So in the midst of returning texts, answering phone calls, and even having a conversation with the reporter who initially wrote the article, I've come to another conclusion.
I can be a part of making things better now, not later. And, I'm not going anywhere right now.
I most certainly have other goals and aspirations—and so do my students. And, I want to do what I can to help them like so many have done for me throughout the years.
Last year alone, several individuals (Dr. Hite, Hermon Douglas, Mrs. Kizer, former principal Jamina Clay-Dingle, Mrs. Burroughs, Mr. Boyd…and the list goes on) went out of their way to help me make a way for my students. When people initially read my story, there was no shortage of folks willing to send me books, letters, and all sorts of great advice…from time to time.
Just applying to law school will be about a two-year process. And while I remain in the classroom, I know that I would greatly benefit from having more in-depth, consistent support in my second and even third year of teaching.
In order for me to be the best possible teacher next year, what I and other new teachers really need is a coach, a day-to-day teaching mentor to help us really develop our craft and create the most engaging classroom environment for students.
Having a teaching coach could help me create more thoughtful lesson plans that will lead to building more meaningful relationships with my students. I'd also love a coach who can challenge me to focus more on students' assets rather than their weaknesses. And I, and so many of my colleagues, would greatly benefit from having a veteran teacher help us to discover our voice, both inside the classroom as well as within the entire school community.
And maybe, just maybe, more kids will start to think about how to pursue their own college and career plans, be it teaching, practicing law, or even some combination.
This is the kind of impact that both motivates teachers and provides lifelong impact on kids.
This is the kind of impact that keeps teachers like me connected to their communities and plenty of others from mulling over plan B.
Quamiir Trice is a fourth-grade teacher at Bethune Elementary School in North Philadelphia and works to ensure all students have access to the quality education they deserve.