Anthony Eley ’19 — My time so far in Memphis has been a fantastic educational experience. My two and a half days in the school has been enlightening in the sense that I have gained an abundance of knowledge about what it is like to teach within an urban setting and how important the community is to this education. My host teacher, Mr. Searle, has given me great insight on how to approach urban education and interact with students in the schools. One tip that Mr. Searle gave me was that humor can be a valuable tool. Kids enjoy having fun, especially when they go to a school that looks sub-par and is underfunded and understaffed. Using tools such as humor can be a simple tool to distract students from the poorer parts of the school and enjoy their educational experiences. Yet this is not always enough. His students are restless, not afraid to talk back, and live in a tough environment that can make the classroom a stressful and challenging place for urban educators. I think that is the concept that has been most reinforced in my time here in Memphis. The lives of these teachers are hard and stressful, and the setting they work in does not make that any better. Yet this does not deter them from their goal of education. They see past all the troubles they have to face, hard as that may be, to try and work with their students to give them a quality education and valuable life skill and experiences.
The city itself has been an amazing experience up to this point. The food has been fantastic, but the places we have visited have been even better. I was able to go on a field trip to the zoo with my class and see this great attraction of the city. This zoo is one of three zoos in the United States that has a panda, and is overall an amazing place. It speaks to the improvements that are being made around the city and the addition and improvement of attractions that will better the lives of those living in the city. With projects such as the building of the Crosstown Commons space, a brand new complex in the city that transformed an abandoned processing center, into an apartment complex/business space which has revitalized that area and brought in new businesses. This trip has allowed me to experience a true southern, suburban setting, unlike anything I have ever gotten to before. It is challenging me to think about the dichotomies that exist in a city like this and how we as individuals and groups try to address this disparity. I think that Memphis is on the right path to address these issues, but more is still needed to solve the problem fully.