We greet the new year with Shamfa Tittle sharing her why. Shamfa is a 7th grade English teacher at Haviland Middle School in Hyde Park, New York. Having graduated from Bard College’s MAT Program in 2016, she continues to apply all of the knowledge she has gained in the classroom as well as through her 23 years of experience in the tap dance world. She also teaches tap in Wappingers Falls, New York.
I believe that I teach because it is my destiny. Since my earliest days, opportunities have always manifested that allowed me to be a mentor, teacher, and advocate for others. At twelve, I was assisting movement classes for three and four-year-olds. Too young to know why I liked it, I looked forward to each class and relished in the responsibility I acquired. I watched the lead teachers and modeled my behavior and interactions with the children on theirs. During my high school years, I became a reliable source for the younger tap dancers in the youth ensemble I was a member of at that time. The director of the company asked that I work with these dancers serving as a positive influence and example both in rehearsals and backstage. Through these experiences, I gained confidence in myself as a leader. Additionally, I gained insight into the importance of connection, compassion, and empathy as a leading figure.
Perhaps the job that most served as a catalyst for my vision and interpretation of what it meant to be an educator, came from my layered experiences as a Resident Assistant. According to the title, this job simply required us to protect the students in our buildings and be a resource for them throughout the semester. In practice, however, this included everything from having to enforce the law with regard to underage students drinking in a freshman residence hall to helping a resident, and the floor they live on, work through the fallout of a sexual assault in the building as a community. I was a parent, older sibling, teacher, mentor, spiritual guide and friend all at the same time…because I had to be. The job required, in my opinion, sincerity and full dedication, which was given willingly and was both expected and applauded by my supervisors. Much was learned over the course of those years as an RA, but the most impactful lesson was a deep understanding of how I can shift among those expected roles seamlessly based on my assessment of the people I worked with and the situations they presented. Now, as these years have passed, all these experiences seem to have guided me to this current moment. To me, education means showing empathy and kindness while maintaining discipline via honest, caring energy. Each part is important for developing well-rounded and stable young people, so I strive to continue to do all this the best I can in order to aid my students in becoming their best selves.