Rewarding Relationships in Teaching
When we asked Brooke East Boston lead teachers Chris Wallace, Jordan Grace, and Shaq (Shaquille) Brummitt about their experiences in the classroom, they highlighted the importance of friendship. Shaq and Chris teach Seventh Grade English and Social Studies, and Jordan teaches Sixth and Seventh Grade Math. Specifically they shared how their motivation and companionship have led them to feel supported as lead teachers.
Why did you choose to work at Brooke?
Chris: I chose Brooke primarily because of the Associate Teacher (AT) salary, which was definitely a big perk. When I came to tour the schools, I liked the content, especially in seventh grade history and social studies – that sparked my interest.
Jordan: I was referred by a friend who works at Brooke Roslindale. She told me about how she became a teacher and how the AT program helped her get into a lead role rather quickly. She got a lot of practice. That sparked my interest to apply.
Shaq: Jordan actually referred me, and so I took a little bit of a leap thinking teaching was for me. I really settled in at Brooke and found my niche here.
What is the most valuable thing you have taken away from this friendship?
Chris: We have a camaraderie. Being able to discuss content, kids, and have a strong friendship is valuable. There have been times where we also challenge each other. They always remind me that there’s something new to learn. It is reassuring to know I can go to them for these things despite being here the longest. Knowing especially that as three Black men, and three Black men educators – we don’t have to do this alone.
Jordan: It’s also nice to have a space to just chill and laugh, to be able to go into their classrooms. It’s super helpful to have a place to chill and hangout at any point of the day.
Shaq: The trust factor is important. Obviously, over time, these things have grown and it’s made doing our job that much easier. It’s really nice to have people you trust and hang out with outside of the workspace.
What would you say to other lead teachers about the benefits of having such close friends and collaborators at work?
Chris: Find your crew. Find the people that are not only going to laugh and crack jokes with you, but find the people who are going to call you out, push you, who are going to tell you what you did and how to fix it.
Shaq: Don’t try to create connections for the wrong reasons. Don’t just make friends to complain about your stress. We don’t come together to do that. Make sure to have the right mentality and that those connections are for the right reasons.
What is the most rewarding part about lead teaching at Brooke?
Jordan: It’s the bond that I’ve made with kids.
Chris: Being here in year seven, I’ve gotten to see two graduating classes. Being able to see those individuals grow up and still want to come in and check in on us says a lot about how much they remember us. I also love the content and seeing the lightbulb go off for students when I’m teaching history. It excites my heart. We can have conversations about the content, and also about other things. They trust me.
Shaq: I agree. I specifically remember my most influential teachers. They leave such an impact on you. I passionately want to be that for as many kids as possible.
What is different about teaching at Brooke?
Shaq: There’s a fair amount of freedom to teach in your way because of how Brooke guides you. Our Assistant Principal, Cinique, is also there as a guide to have empowering conversations about how our classrooms should look.
Jordan: I also feel a lot of support from Cinique.. Feedback has always been honest and constructive which is helpful.
Chris: The same way Cinique has been a point person for Shaq, our Principal Elza is mine. She’s a constant reminder of why I should be teaching here. When I hear Elza’s story and trajectory of going from an Associate Teacher, to lead teacher, to Dean, to Assistant Principal, to principal – it’s a reminder of why I need to push myself.