Category Archives: Perspectives

Student to Teacher: Reflections

Danyelle 1This year has presented a lot of challenges, changes, and development for me. As a 2013 graduate, fresh out of college, I decided to switch from the role of student to the role of teacher. When I started my role as a corps member for an educational non-profit, I envisioned myself as somewhat of a humanitarian with a certain agenda. I planned to go into the school system and make a significant difference in the life of every child that I encountered. I was going to inspire them, I was going to motivate them and I was going to save them from the negative influences of the world. I was ready to conquer and I was ready to teach! I mean, I went to college and I’ve been through my fair share of life so what could possibly go wrong??!

Reflecting on this year with my students, I’ve realized that I am the one learning an abundance of new information. There is nothing that truly prepares you to teach or even to learn. They’re both processes of life and they happen simultaneously through life experiences.   Working with eighth graders of varying personalities, strengths, talents, and challenges has given me an opportunity to learn what it takes to really motivate people. By understanding what is important to my students, what makes them unique as people, and what they are responsive to, I have been able to inspire them. My agenda now has shifted from “saving my students” to showing my students that someone cares about them. I’ve learned that simply showing that you care has been the greatest motivating tool and allows people you care about to “save” themselves.

Simultaneously, during this period of revelations in my life, I found myself in a new church where I’m also learning and growing spiritually. I usually find myself so wrapped up in learning Scripture and engraining it in my heart. My greatest hope is to be able to eventually teach others and help them grow nearer to God. In the meantime, I learn and I observe until it is His will to have me inspire others. There have been many things that I have learned through Scripture and through being a student that I believe will help me be more ready to help others:

  1. Patience

“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen slow to speak and slow to become angry.” James 1:19 NIV

In order to do what’s in the Scripture above, we need to exercise patience. We should be patient with others as we are patient with ourselves. Everyone has their own individual learning journey. Everything will happen at its own appointed time. We must be patient though and slow to become frustrated. We must be diligent.

Every day, I consistently tell my students different ways of managing self-control. Some days, it feels like nothing I tell them is getting through. I tell them to be patient and quiet as they raise their hand to get the attention of the teacher and as soon as I turn around I hear a student scream, “Miss! MISS!” Students are constantly in verbal combat over who can say the most degrading things to each other and neither will “take the high road”. In report card conferences, I hear way too many “She gave me an “F”, because she doesn’t like me!” instead of I earned an “F” because I sleep in class. Then, one day a student says, “Ms. Danyelle, I listened to what you said and ignored those girls that said something mean to me. Now, they’re upset and I’m chillin’.” Although this seems like a minor feat, this student has taken a step towards being able to manage their emotions. There are unseen processes that are happening within the learner, but if the teacher is consistent and diligent, the learning does take place. It’s important to be patient.

  1. Love your neighbor as yourself.

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments (Matthew 22:37-40).”

God said it! Therefore, we can only conclude that loving your neighbor is SUPER important. We cannot say that we love one another if we draw barriers with our preconceived notions and judgment. We cannot draw closer to one another and draw others closer to God unless we try to understand, empathize with, and truly love one another.

 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be (James 3:9-10 NIV)

It’s important to always be considerate of one another. We cannot say that we truly love God if we do not love others made in God’s image. We have all fallen from grace. We must humble ourselves before God and love one another, “flaws and all”.

  1. Humility

Your beginnings will seem humble, so prosperous will your future be. Job 8:7 NIV

God is always at work to lift up those who are humble. So, we should always stay clear of false pride. Everything that man is proud of is temporary, it fades. High positions, power, money, and clothes are all here today and gone tomorrow. Those who remain humble, have a bright future.

I can see humility within my students and myself. Those who are bold enough to admit their faults and ask for help, receive it. Those who remain prideful and chase away help that comes to them, generally have a harder time maintaining. I admit freely when I have made a mistake or if I simply do not know an answer with my students. Now, that they know that I as an adult, a human being, make mistakes they feel free to admit their own and feel more comfortable.

  1. Be diligent

Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. 1 Timothy 4:15 NIV

We must be diligent in teaching and learning “…because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.” We must be consistent, we must constantly be striving to do better and we must always share our experiences with others.

There are many things that are important in teaching, but one of the most important things has to be organization and consistency. In a world where everything is constantly changing, God stays the same…his Word stays the same. We must mirror this in our studying and our actions.

 

Danyelle 2Danyelle Lashay graduated from Howard University with her Bachelor of Arts in Economics. She is currently completing a year of service with City Year Greater Philadelphia. Danyelle looks forward to starting a graduate program in Public Administration & International Education Management at Monterey Institute of International Studies, a graduate school of Middlebury College in the Fall. She enjoys sharing her insight about education, current events, and spirituality. You can follow her on Twitter, @Mitchell_Dany.

My Hope: 4 Reasons to Rejoice

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have (I Peter 3:15).

By the time I reached the age of 6, I had a considerable amount of reasons to feel despair. With every passing year the more heartache, disappointments and defeats began to mount. At certain points in my life, it became really difficult to remain optimistic about my outlook. However, today I can say with certainty that my Savior never let me go. He was always there….that “flickering light” of love, hope and joy within me…that notion that there is a reason to rejoice.

I Peter 3:15 says I should be prepared to give an answer to those who ask me my reasons for hope. I have countless reasons but if I had to summarize them all in one song it would be Tye Tribbett’s, He Turned It. The lyrics to the bridge of the song is

The devil thought he (had me). Thought that my life was (over). He thought by now I’d (give up). He thought I had no (more). But that’s when someone (Greater). Stepped in my (situation). My morning has now begun…”

The lyrics to the bridge of this song alone succinctly express my reason for hope. Quite simply, I am hopeful because: 1) Jesus died and rose to save me, 2) I am the Child of the Most High God, 3) I am Heir to God’s promises, and 4) there will be no more sorrow or tears.

Jesus Died and Rose to Save Me

Saved from Death: There is a lot in God’s word that has helped me to understand the magnitude of my Heavenly Father’s love for me. He sent His only begotten Son as a sacrifice so that I may have eternal life (John 3:16). I no longer have to fear death. I now know that because I believe that Jesus is the only begotten son of my Heavenly Father and that He came into this world to save me and have risen and now sit on the right hand of my Heavenly Father, I shall have eternal life. So what shall I fear? I know if I continue to believe what the world tells me and all of the “noise” around me, I have lots to fear but that is not truth. I have to continue to meditate on the truth of eternal life so that I stay firm in my joy when everything around me indicates I should be in despair.

When I take a moment to truly grasp the magnitude of the love God has for me I become overwhelmed with emotion. I imagine sending one of my daughters into the lion’s den to save…let’s say, an enemy. Would I do it? While I know when all is said and done my daughter will be okay….just the thought of her being tortured, even for a moment, is unbearable. But, God love me so much that He did just that. Jesus was sent as an atoning sacrifice for me….for you. What a love! I don’t think I will ever fully understand and appreciate the magnitude of such love in my present state.

Saved from a Worldly life: There is a peace…a completeness…a purposeful feeling when walking in the will of my Heavenly Father. I have a testimony of doing things my way…living a worldly life with all the emptiness it provides. But, it pales in comparison to living for my Heavenly Father, through Jesus.

Scripture teaches me in Chapter 2 of Titus that “For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope – the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good (v. 11-14).”

I recall a time in my life that I was often criticized by people I considered to be friends. I would often hear words like “holier than thou,” and “bible thumping.” Initially, it really hurt that my friends didn’t understand. I was confused because my friends attended church and, on most occasions, were kind. In my youth I would, on occasion, listen to provocative music and attend parties that made me uncomfortable just to show people I am not perfect.   With age, I no longer wanted to prove anything to anyone but God. With my life, I want to show that I am grateful for His love, mercy and grace. Every day, I learn what giving my life over to the Holy Spirit means….what it looks like. I am no longer invited to as many parties as before and people tend to study me intensely looking for imperfection so that they can declare “that I’m not a real Christian!”

Child of the Most High God

God’s word tells me that as a believer, I am now a child of God (Galatians 3:26; John 1:12). I get excited thinking about what that means. As a mother, I know how it feels to love and care for a child. I know that all that I can provide for my children, I will and do…by the grace of God. So much more so must be the care God has for His children. God’s word confirms that “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! (Matt. 7:11).” God also tells me that His plans for me are prosperous (Jeremiah 29:11) and that “all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).”

Even more exciting about being a child of the Most High God is to know I have an inheritance. “This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time (I Peter 1: 4-5).”

Heir to God’s Promises

The reason for my hope is that I know I am heir to God’s promises. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise (Galatians 3:29). God promises me long life on earth (Ephesians 6:3), peace (John 14:27; Proverbs 1:33), power and strength (Isaiah 40:29-31), and to supply all my needs (Philippians 4:19). These are a few of many of God’s promises.

No More Sorrows or Tears

God reveals in the 21st chapter of Revelation that upon Jesus return there will be no death, sorrow and mourning.

Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away (Revelation 21:1-4)”

There will also be singing and everlasting joy:

And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness; it will be for those who walk on that Way. The unclean will not journey on it; wicked fools will not go about on it. No lion will be there, nor any ravenous beast; they will not be found there. But only the redeemed will walk there, and those the Lord has rescued will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away (Isaiah 35: 8-10).

These are my reasons….my 4 reasons to love, rejoice and live in the fullness of the day the Lord has made! 4 reasons for trusting God.  4 reasons to forever abound in love, hope, peace and joy!

Victory: The Plan for Me and You

Like many who live in the DC-Maryland-Virginia (DMV) area, I awake before the break of day to prepare for work. Typically, my television is tuned to the local news channel hoping that the weather forecast will be mild and sunny. But by the time I get into my car to head to work I’ve not only received the weather forecast, I’ve also received numerous messages of despair and dysfunction through the News. It’s discouraging and sometimes makes me afraid for the future. Where is the peace…the love…the unity?

So to overcome this fear and despair before it can convict my spirit, I like to take in large doses of encouragement. When I get into my car I immediately tune to my favorite radio station for praise and worship, Praise 104.1. Without fail, the song by Donnie McClurkin, We are Victorious, not only gets me inspired but it helps me put the day in perspective. After hearing it this morning, I put pen to paper to remind me and you that we are Victors. No matter what surrounds us, we will be victorious.

In my life, there have been three things that have impeded my victory: quitting, fear and not believing. When I searched the bible to find out what God’s word says about these things, I was empowered, strengthened and encouraged to discover that I am NOT a victim….loser….or defeated. Victory is God’s plan for me and you.

Quitting

What is the saying? When the going gets tough the tough gets going. Well, I’ve always interpreted that saying to mean that when things get hard it is okay to abandon ship. God’s word declares the opposite of how I interpreted that saying. Whether it be an illness/sickness or a closed door to a relationship or job (rejection), God’s word says that we are “more than conquerors”, “God will deliver us out of all our afflictions”, and if we will just wait patiently and not quit, “He will renew our strength.” We were not designed to lose this battle.  Victory is God’s plan for you and me.

The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all (Psalm 34:19 NIV)

…but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint (Isaiah 40:31)

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all this through him who gives me strength (Philippians 4:12-13 NIV)

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world (I John 4:4)

No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. (I Corinthian 10:13)

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?… No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us (Romans 8:35,37 NIV)

Fear

If you watch the television long enough, it is easy to reach a level of despair and fear for the future. But I tell myself that the “mess” this world has gotten itself into…we have gotten ourselves into…is nothing for my God. He can move mountains. He has parted seas, made the blind see and the lame walk. So, no worries! We are victorious! And, His Word confirms it.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4: 6-7).

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. (2 Timothy 1:7 NIV).

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba,Father.”  The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. (Romans 8: 14-17)

If God is for us who could be against us (Romans 8:28)

I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, `Go, throw yourself into the sea,` and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him (Mark 11:23 NIV).

Not Believing in God and His Word

I believe part of my problem stemmed from me not truly believing that God wanted the best for me. Better yet, that I deserved the best from God. But I have learned that I am redeemed through the sacrifice of my Savior Jesus Christ and therefore I am heir to the many promises of God. I am of no help to anyone when I go around defeated. Taking a moment to allow the truth of who I really am in Christ is critical to me believing that I am worthy of God’s goodness…worthy of being an heir. This truth is taking awhile to cement to my being. I have to constantly remind myself that I am redeemed and that if God is for me who can be against me. And, most importantly God has plans to prosper me. I am victorious….we are victorious!

There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit (Romans 8:1)

Eyes have not seen, nor ears heard neither have entered the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him (I Corinthians 2:9)

We live by faith, not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7 NIV).

Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. So let`s do it- full of belief, confident that we`re presentable inside and out. Let`s keep a firm grip on the promises that keep us going. He always keeps his word (Hebrews 10: 22-23).

The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And, if children, then heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. (Romans 8:16-17)

But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently (Romans8: 24-25)

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28).

Knowing God’s truth has strengthened my resolve…my desire to live in the fullness of what God has for me. I declare that I accept the depth of God’s love for me and thus I will live for Him. I am victorious…we are victorious!

Praying the Psalm When Words Escape You

bible series psalmsMy desire is to be a vessel for God to use to glorify His name but I know that means “creating a clean heart in me (Psalm 51:10).”  And, truth be told, I see that as a miracle in and of itself.  Oh! A wretch like me!  With all the “muck and gunk” I have built in my heart and mind over the years, I dare not think on how large a task, in my strength, it would be to clean this heart.  I simply trust God because I know He can and will do it.

I present myself to Him as humble and honest as I know how wanting to bear the depths of all that is within me so sometimes words expressing the weight of my heart escape me. It is at those times, I look to the Book of Psalms to present all that I am to God…all of my imperfections, pains, anxieties and disappointments.

Once I find a Psalm that speaks to my countenance, I meditate on it and then pray it. Here are four of the many that I found spoke to me:

  • The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.  He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He refreshes my soul.  He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.  Even though I walk through the darkest valley,I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.  You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.  You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.   Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever (Psalms 23 NIV).

 

  • Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.  Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.  For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.  Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge.  Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.  Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb; you taught me wisdom in that secret place.  Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.  Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice.  Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity.  Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.  Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.  Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.  Then I will teach transgressors your ways, so that sinners will turn back to you. Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, you who are God my Savior, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.  Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare your praise.  You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.  My sacrifice, O God, isa broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise (Psalm 51:1-17 NIV).

 

  • Teach me, Lord, the way of your decrees, that I may follow it to the end.  Give me understanding, so that I may keep your law and obey it with all my heart.  Direct me in the path of your commands, for there I find delight.  Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain.  Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word.  Fulfill your promise to your servant, so that you may be feared.  Take away the disgrace I dread, for your laws are good.  How I long for your precepts!  In your righteousness preserve my life (Psalms 119: 33-40 NIV).

 

  • I will exalt you, my God the King; I will praise your name forever and ever.  Every day I will praise you and extol your name forever and ever.  Great are You and most worthy of praise; Your greatness no one can fathom. One generation commends your works to another; they tell of your mighty acts.  They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty—and I will meditate on your wonderful works.  They tell of the power of your awesome works—and I will proclaim your great deeds. They celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness.  You are gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love.  You are good to all; You have compassion on all that you have made.   All your works praise you, Lord; your faithful people extol you. They tell of the glory of your kingdom and speak of your might, so that all people may know of your mighty acts and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.  Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures through all generations.  You are trustworthy in all your promises and faithful in all you do.  You uphold all who fall and lift up all who are bowed down.  The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time.  You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing.  You are righteous in all your ways and faithful in all you do.  You are near to all who call on you, to all who call on you in truth.  You fulfill the desires of those who fear you; you hear their cry and save them.  You watch over all who love you, but all the wicked you will destroy.  My mouth will speak in praise of You.  Let every creature praise your holy name forever and ever (Psalm 145 NIV).

Are HBCU’s Necessary?

Debate-2My boyfriend and I were having a battle royale, verbal debate to end all, epic discussion about the role and necessity of HBCUs or Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Before I proceed with the outcome and better yet substance of this Great Debate, I will give a bit of background information about each of us to give some context.

Background

First and Foremost, I am a proud Howard University Class of 2013 Alumna. I consider myself someone from humble beginnings. I was raised primarily by my mother in a lower middle class income family. I moved a lot across Illinois and eventually to the east coast in Virginia while my mother sought out opportunities. I was exposed to a myriad of cultures along the way due to the different populations of people I lived amongst. I was very much raised to love myself and the people around me, so I did.

Lastly, but certainly not least, I am an African American female. My background and life experiences collectively are the reason why I made a conscious decision to attend an HBCU.

Now, my boyfriend, Elias, seems to be polar opposite of me on paper. Elias grew up in a middle class two-parent home in one house, in one neighborhood his entire life up until college age. He currently attends Temple University, a PWI or predominately white institution. He is a white American male.

We have many things in common though. One of them is this: we’re both idealists, sometimes in disguise of “realists”.

The Debate

This debate started when I probed him on his views on economic separatism (Blacks buying from Black owned businesses exclusively). He responded that essentially he is in support of groups and communities supporting their own, BUT not exclusively. Meaning, “Buy black, but don’t shut off your business to others.” While expressing his viewpoints, he said, “I don’t think that anything should be catered exclusively to one group of people.”

Me being me, I pressed him further. I said, “Well Howard centers the education that the students receive on the people that attend the school, which is predominately black. So, evidently every course has a theme of what people of the African diaspora have contributed to the advancement of society.” I was prepared for a rebuttal and more than ready for a debate. I dared him to say that there shouldn’t be any HBCUs and HE DID!

At this point, I listed every reason why that statement is refutable.  Based on my experience at one of the most prestigious HBCUs, I highlighted reasons why I wholeheartedly believe that an HBCU experience is like no other. Allow me to preface this list by saying that in no way am I saying that a young Black student cannot find these values in a PWI. I’m just saying that a lot of these points are presented by statistical data, while some of it is just personal experience.

  1. HBCUs instill self-love, pride and the need to be a social justice activist in its students.  Howard’s motto, “Truth & Service
  2. HBCUs have the highest rate of Blacks graduating from college, not just attending.
  3. HBCUs encourage unity and support.
  4. HBCUs foster an environment where young Black students can get to know themselves.
  5. HBCUs provide the tools for students to be active in their communities to encourage growth and change.
  6. HBCUs produce world leaders.  This year Howard University was listed as one of the top Peace Corps Volunteer producing Universities and the top HBCU PCV producer! http://www.howard.edu/newsroom/releases/2014/20140211HowardRanksonPeaceCorpsTopCollegeList.html
  7. HBCUs are diverse. Yes, diverse! Therefore, it doesn’t “cater to one group”. There are people from all over the world, from every socio-economic class, and many cultural varieties.

If I wasn’t startled enough by his comment, his rebuttal to my list of reasons completely took me aback. His response, “I agree. I think that you think I’m saying that HBCUs are unnecessary and I’m not.”

He said, “Let me rephrase my statement. I don’t think that they (HBCUs) should HAVE to be necessary. I don’t think that we should have to have economic separatism. We are limiting ourselves by these devices. Ideally, we could support each other equally and education wouldn’t favor one group over another.” All of that talking that I did resulted in us coming to the same conclusion!

So, this battle royale, verbal debate, epic discussion ended in an essential agreement. Until we reach an idealistic solution to our very real social inequalities, HBCUs will be necessary and required.

Please, leave any comments, questions or new ideas below! I would love to hear from you!