WoFo’s Teacher Spotlight features awesome educators who are dedicated to teaching and inspiring young people everyday.
In this edition, WoFo features English teacher, writer and spoken word artist Jasmine Hawkins. I would like to thank Jasmine for her interview and for her dedication to the teaching profession.
You have to love your students and be willing to build relationships with them so that you can push them beyond their expectations. Be firm with your expectations; they will thank you later.
Besides being a teacher Jasmine Hawkins is…
a passionate, inspirational, and ambitious spoken word artist, writer, sports lover, and frequent traveler who loves visiting new places and learning her way around new cities.
Where do you currently teach, what do you teach and for how long?
I currently teach at Simon Gratz High School (the alma mater of my father and grandfather). I have been teaching high school English (and various related electives) for the past eight years mostly in Philadelphia aside from one year in Pittsburgh where I attended college and graduate school.
What is your favorite lesson to teach and why?
I love when the school year is coming to an end and I get to incorporate topics that are of high interest to my students, usually a music artist who has an empowering message with historical context. The past few years, I’ve taught Kendrick Lamar’s “To Pimp a Butterfly” album which is a spin off the famous novel To Kill a Mockingbird. This year, throughout African American Political Thought Unit, I’ve also been able to teach using songs from Solange and J. Cole. Lessons like this are always fun for me because they are high in engagement as well as critical thinking take-aways about ongoing social issues.
If for one day you were in charge of your school what would you do?
If I were in charge of the school for a day, we would take a school-wide trip. Often times trips are limited to the students who “qualify” with grades and good behavior, but I think everyone (both students and teachers) could benefit from a change of environment. With my current school, I’d take a trip to D.C. with a stop in Baltimore at the Wax Museum which is full of powerful historic images. Once in D.C. we would stop at a few monuments, the White House, and end with the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial which has thought-provoking quotes which students would write about for English class.
For lunch, I’d love for the students to eat at the Eatonville Restaurant inspired by Zora Neal Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, however, if that is still closed, we could eat at Busboys and Poets which is an empowering bookstore and restaurant that also hosts events throughout the week. Before returning home, I’d want the students to see the Newseum in Washington D.C. which highlights major journalistic and historic stories of all kinds over the past century. There, students could see the power of observing and reporting. With a day full of that much history and empowerment, I would hope everyone would return home with an additional ray of hope and inspiration for the future and their own possibilities.
If you could write one quote on the board for your students what would it be?
“Whether you think you can or you can’t you’re right.”
If you weren’t a teacher, what would you be?
For the longest time, my secret dream job has been to be an ESPN analyst or anchor. Now, I just want to be a travel writer.
What advice would you give to all new teachers?
There are levels of advice I would give. General advice: Real teaching cannot be taught in school. You have to love your students and be willing to build relationships with them so that you can push them beyond their expectations. Be firm with your expectations; they will thank you later. It will be challenging at times, but it’s always worth it.
There’s also classroom management advice, instructional advice, school involvement advice, and work life balance advice. Maybe I’ll write a book for all of this. ☺
If the best thing about teaching is the students, what’s the second best thing?
The success stories. I love when students come back and tell me how “real” the world is or simply say “thank you.” This is especially priceless when you hear it from the ones who challenged you every day. Knowing that your work is paying off is definitely one of the best feelings in the world.
Who inspires you?
My parents. One of the biggest reasons I became a teacher is because my parents worked hard to provide me with opportunities they weren’t always given, and I want to be able to do the same for my students. Plus, my father was a teacher who was and is a strong believer in the power of discipline. Students often have a love-hate relationship with my class during the year, they love that they are learning, but they hate that they can’t get away with much because of all of my “protocols” which push them to be independent. In the end, they usually get it. The older I get, the more I find I am just like my father in many ways.
My classroom superpower is…
This is a hard one. I believe my super power is my ability to empower and inspire. According to my students, I push them to do things, they don’t think they are able to do. By pushing them beyond these limitations, they leave empowered enough to take on life and all of its challenges. Being able to help someone see his or her own ability is definitely a superpower because sometimes I look back and wonder how I was able to do it.
Connect with Jasmine on Instagram @mizzjasz
Do you know an awesome educator dedicated to inspiring and teaching others? If so, please consider nominating them to be featured on WoFo’s Teacher Spotlight Series. You can send their contact information to firstname.lastname@example.org.