Jenny and I have been in Memphis for just under one week. It has been a week of emotional stress, heat stroke (not really, but close), and a waterfall of information.
Thursday night was the Memphis Teacher Residency kickoff dinner. Though I am not part of the program myself, as a future spouse of a member, I have been very well-loved and accepted into the family. This dinner was an excellent opportunity to meet many folks who are of the same mind and heart for the future of this city and the cities of this great nation. David Montague (MTR Director) asked for everyone’s attention as the mayor was walking down the hallway with only five minutes to address the MTR family. Wow. I had been in this city only four days and would soon be sitting ten feet from the head honcho of the land.
Passion trumps power and politics any day!
— Mayor A. C. Wharton, Jr.
This quote and many others laced the mayor’s inspirational speech of overcoming obstacles and investing in future generations. Wharton, Jr. shared his story of achievement without encouragement and battling a system turned against him. He, on behalf of the city, thanked those who are committing their lives to revitalizing the broken education system in Memphis, the fifth poorest public school system in the nation. According to Wharton, it is not buildings or supplies that make school successful, but the teachers.
Maxie D. Dunnam, former president of Asbury Theological Seminary, was the keynote speaker of the evening. He used the theology of “Peanuts,” his passion for the city of Memphis, and the very words of Christ to challenge the audience of Christ-centered educators-in-training. How quickly we settle for less than is possible and less than is promised! All Christ asked is that “anyone who has faith in Me will do what I have been doing.” (Jn. 14:12) If we commit to being faithful with what we can do, God will overcome the large-scale injustice in the city in His time. God has greatly blessed me with opportunities, but so many have not, and I am so anxious to be able to reinvest what I have into young hearts in Memphis.
Some are born dogs, and some are born people. Why should I be the lucky one?
— Snoopy, ‘Peanuts’ by Charles Schultz
David Montague closed the evening with some brief comments. He referenced a report by Time magazine which stated that research showed the greatest factor preventing young adults from entering the education field is not the lack-of-money but the lack-of-prestige. There is nothing inherently wrong with working in a more “prestigious” field, but the correlation of urban education with verses like Matthew 20:16 or Matthew 25:40 get me excited.
The change is already in motion, and we already see traces of results. MTR placed Jenny at The Soulsville Charter School for her residency internship, which has been greatly celebrated for its very first graduating class this past year. Of the 51 members of the Class of 2012, 51 are going on to college! This is a stunning accomplishment by a student demographic that would have otherwise had a very bleak outlook.
I stand here representing the first graduating class of the revolution.
— Jasmine Mack, Soulsville ’12
The greater vision of the leaders and shakers in education in this city is that this racially-tense, the economically-poor metropolitan area will lead the way in urban education reform and become a model for other cities in the years to come. Who better to be at the helm of such a great movement that those professing Christ, and what better way to preach the Gospel to our community than to live it out and seek reconciliation and redemption in what has been called “the key civil rights issue of the 21st century”?
I start my work at Collegiate this week. Stoked.
More to come.