Back in April, my cousin Aaron Evans decided to make his voyage to Miami University in Oxford, Ohio to attend the class I teach on Sociocultural Foundations for preservice teachers. For some time, Aaron and I had been communicating about his visiting our campus in order to get a feel not only for how I teach, what I teach, and how its received, but also a feel for discussing race, racism, and power in the classroom. Aaron’s work in the nation of Taiwan had him teaching at an academy for youth learning English. The following is a short interview Aaron about his experience during visit to my classroom and campus, his experience reentering the U.S. after teaching in Taiwan, and the future for him as an educator.
Johnnie Jackson: What was your interpretation of the Sociocultural Foundations class today?
Aaron Evans :The sociocultural class had an interesting effect on me. We discussed “white privilege.” Being Caucasian and African-American, as well as having attended school and lived in an underserved urban community, while also having attended school and lived in a suburban community, I truly feel as if I have an understanding of both sides of the spectrum. When the students shared what they found interesting or confusing in our class discussions, as well as the Richard Pryor video we watched, I was able to relate with them through close friends if not personally. White privilege is such an awakening topic. Many dear friends of mine, who have grown up in the suburbs, would not consider themselves privileged. They see themselves as children from normal, middle class families, and the privileged are those in the upper tax brackets. White privilege is not something discussed within suburban schools grades k-12—even though white privilege exist beyond the confines of education. White privilege exist socially and mentally, as we discussed. It was refreshing to see the wheels in some of the college student’s heads begin to turn as white privilege and even male privilege biases in the world were displayed before them.
JJ: What was your perception of the student body, university, landscape, buildings, and resources?
AE: Miami University has a beautiful campus. Driving down, I was certain I was lost as I was in the middle of farmland, and then the campus just appeared. I had read and been told about the beauty of the landscape, as well as the beautiful collegiate architecture, and it lived up to its reputation. I went to The Ohio State University, so it was a very different feel from my alma mater. In comparison of multicultural diversity, I did feel as if Miami was lacking diversity in the student body that I observed while touring. Miami was not lacking in resources, as I was able to see the various hi-tech computer labs, the teacher resource library, as well as the social and dining area of Brick street.
JJ: Explain how you experienced the re entry process coming to the U.S. after living in the country of Taiwan.
AE: After being abroad in Taiwan for 15 months, returning home to the U.S. was somewhat of a culture shock in itself. Living and teaching in Taiwan was my first time abroad and truly being away from home. Every week in Taiwan I pondered what it would be like when I finally came home. Would I be the same person? How long would it take me to readjust to American culture? Are people going to think I’m weird/a bit off? Am I going to be different? Are my friends going to be different? These were all honest questions I had for myself. When my plane landed, and my brother picked me up from the airport (I wanted to surprise my mom or else she would’ve been there the day before waiting she missed me so much) everything was normal. I knew where I was. I didn’t need any maps. I wasn’t anxious or attentive. I was home. I was relaxed. I had over thought the initial anxiety I assumed I would feel. I have grown more patient, grateful, and accepting since returning home. This patience, gratefulness, and acceptance is thanks to Taiwan, and living and traveling within a different culture where these traits were necessary when facing communication and culture barriers on a consistent basis.
JJ: Talk about your vision/mission for going back to school. Why education, why now, and why National Louis University?
AE: Having the opportunity to live and teach in Taiwan opened my eyes to the importance of hard work, education, family, and friends. I witnessed Taiwanese students attend their primary schools, and then come to English class six days a week for 10-12 hours each day. Their goal was always to be better. Their parents earned money to pay toward their education, in order for their children to have opportunistic futures. Witnessing this, Monday to Friday, and sometimes Saturdays, inspired me to want to be better, as well as encourage others to be better. Not only be better in the classroom, but also in their mind, how they treat people, how they treat themselves, how they treat their bodies. This all relates to education, athletics, art, and most importantly goals and dreams. It’s important to work hard to achieve your dreams and goals, no matter how cliché that may sound, it is true. National Louis gives me a great opportunity to receive my Master’s degree, and then continue bettering myself, striving toward my dreams, while inspiring youth to do the same. Sometimes a compliment or encouragement is just what a person needs to get them through the day, and I hope to bring that joy to my future classrooms, students, teachers, and schools. I hope to instill belief and fervor within my future students as they strive towards their dreams and goals.
Update since interview
Since our interview, Aaron Evans was accepted to National Louis University and has started his Master’s program. This summer has been intensive for Aaron because he is taking full time intensive summer courses. Recently, he also interviewed for a Graduate Assistant position with the Office of Student Experience. This position, Student Experience Bridge Program Graduate Assistant will work with high school seniors that qualify to begin taking courses for their undergraduate degree early. He will be dedicated to helping develop educational workshops on leadership skills, conflict resolution, and other topics dealing with college life. Aaron is excited and thrilled to be working in this position because it will allow him to develop programming aimed at retaining young minds that can help push the academic culture forward.
All in all, Aaron Evans is an upcoming mover and shaker in education. His insight, passion, and willingness to explore ambiguity as he exhibited switching the classroom in Taiwan to the classroom in America will lead to a new generation of thinkers, movers, and explorers in the field of education. For more on my graduate program at Miami, Aaron’s graduate program at National Louis University, and teaching abroad check out the links below:
1. Miami University’s Ph.D. in Educational Leadership: http://www.units.miamioh.edu/eap/EDL/graduate/phD.html
2. National Louis University M.Ed. or C.A.S. in Curriculum and Instruction: http://www.nl.edu/academics/educationmastersadvanceded/curriculumandinstruction/
3. Teach Away Inc is a repository of information about Teaching Abroad for those who are interested! http://www.teachaway.com