Reflection from Zachary Barber

Orientation in Jackson was a whirlwind of preparation. I saw it as a series of balancing acts. We puzzled over questions about how to maintain rigorous college-level expectations while maximizing student growth, how to equip our students with tools to navigate "the system" while cultivating awareness of its unfairness, and how to keep ourselves motivated and inspired in the face of hardship. We didn’t come to definitive answers, of course, but having the chance to discuss these topics over and over with a room full of brilliant people has made me feel like I've made progress.

But by far the most important component of my teacherly preparation is that I'm beginning to realize just how much this region itself has to teach me. One thing that I've found eye-opening is just how different this work will be from anything I've ever done before. For two years, I taught 5th and 6th grade in inner-city Chicago. I naively assumed that my experience there would help me navigate my experience in Mississippi. But after just the first week down south, I feel humbled to realize how unique the needs of this region are, and how unique the needs of these students are. I'm excited to continue to learn about further aspects of the Delta and I strongly believe that that sort of learning is the most important factor in shaping my educational practice. 

Zach Barber is a Ph.D. Candidate in Philosophy at the University of Rochester. He is teaching a philosophy course entitled "What is the Right Thing to Do?" at the Rosedale Freedom Project. 

Emily Gowen