Updated: Jan 28
By: Martez Gerard
Growing up, many elders told me that I would become a teacher or a preacher. I attempted to do everything within my power to prove them wrong. I always knew I was good at it, but I wanted to be rich and famous. I had dreams of being on Broadway or saving lives as Chief of Staff at a major hospital. It was not until I was twenty-two with a college degree, no job, and bills to pay, that I decided to give teaching a shot.
In the span of four short years, I served in four different capacities within one school district. I went from Classroom Teacher (Teacher of the Year) to Instructional Specialist, to Instructional Coach, to Assistant Principal. The lessons I learned while working and transitioning prepared me for the success I have experienced the past three and a half years in building-level administration. I could not have imagined in a million years that a young black boy from one of the worst neighborhoods in South Georgia would have accomplished the goals that I have in my ten years in education. From founding a nationally recognized mentoring program to helping turn around a failing school, I have been blessed with the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of many. How did I get here? I mastered the following concepts:
For a vast majority of my life, I was intoxicated by the opinions of others. What people thought of me directly affected my judgment in positive and negative ways. I made decisions based upon whether or not a person like me or my work. I felt as though I had something to prove. It was my during my fifth and final year of teaching that, I became reflective and understood the importance of living and leading based upon my why and not the words of others. It was during this time that I began to become sober-minded. I began reading more. John C. Maxwell became one of my favorite authors. His books helped me to reflect more than I reacted. This practice helped me to become less dependent on external stimuli and more dependent on intrinsic gratification. The more sober-minded I became, the better I could hear and see my career for what it truly is: a calling.
My thoughts are often conveyed on my face and solidified with my speech. My transition into leadership caused me to endure a time of remaining silent even when I wanted to scream and shout. Some talked badly about me, and others went about their daily lives as though I never existed, and I had to sit and watch in silence. I was tasked with engaging people who blatantly insulted my intelligence, and I was failing miserably. John Maxwell states, “It’s hard to improve when you have no one but yourself to follow.” I sought out mentors who worked in positions that I desired to pursue. They taught me to be slow to respond and quick to observe. Silence increased my sensitivity. It enhanced my ability to sense what was not being said or conveyed which helped me to make fewer mistakes when it came to leading self and others. This was one of the greatest challenges of my life. However, it caused me to grow and mature at a fast pace. Today, I am eternally grateful. My brother, Kwame Sarfo-Mensah said it best in his book entitled, Shaping the Teacher Identity, “I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for the mentorship of the many teachers, former principals, and support staff members in different schools where I worked.” They helped me understand the importance of utilizing my right to remain silent.
Teaching and learning are serious matters! I realized this truth after being named Teacher of the Year during my final four months as a teacher of record. I spent the next year as an Instructional Specialist reading and studying effective teaching while training others to do what I wish I had the opportunity to redo. I watched webinars, enrolled in EdX courses, attended conferences, took notes, asked questions, and fell in love with the very thing that I tried to avoid for so many years. Taking my craft seriously empowered me with the ability to ask and answer the right questions. The next year, I interviewed for an Assistant Principal position. I ended up as the first Instructional Coach at the same school. This humbling experience showed me how serious I needed to be about my next step. Nine months later, I received a call offering me the position of Assistant Principal. My journey to finding my purpose has been invaluable, and I would not trade it for anything.
Martez Gerard is a millennial school administrator who is the author of the personal
development book, "Successfully Overcoming Artificial Restrictions" (SOAR). He is an accomplished singer living by his original quote, "The only thing that can stop me from being great is my own perspective."
Instagram and Twitter handle @martezgerard
Member of Black Educators Rock
John C. Maxwell Certified Speaker, Teacher, Coach
President and COO of iLive Consulting, LLC.