I have seen poverty, lived in poverty, and been homeless. I count myself privileged and fortunate to have had the opportunity to obtain an education, an opportunity which my parents did not have. I spent my 5th through 8th grade years in the Washington DC school system. I have heard that the Washington DC school system was/is the worst in the nation – that is part of my background.
As a life-long educator, I know, and the research shows that when higher standards are set for students, they rise to the occasion. As an economics professor at Historically Black Talladega College, I held my students to very high standards and did my very best to ensure that they rose to those standards. I provided extra class sessions, provided extra review sessions, put a supplementary instructor in the classes, tutored my students personally, and walked around the library the night before an examination to assist my students with material they did not understand. Bottom line, I gave them no excuse to fail! Unfortunately, some did. I remember one of my students (Mr. John ‘Y’) saying, “Dr. Quartey, you just care too much. You got to teach this stuff and if they get it, they get it, if they don’t they don’t!” My conscience would not allow me to do that. As an educator, I was more than a teacher, I was a mentor and nurturer to many of my students. One point I always drove home to my students was that they had to take responsibility for their successes and failures. When some failed my class, they would say “Dr. Quartey, I can’t believe you failed me”, to which I would respond, “No, you failed yourself.”
In my over 30 years as an educator, I do not recall missing a day of work because of illness–I really do not. There were many a Friday that I left work sick and was sick all weekend, but when Monday came, I was revitalized and reinvigorated; that is how much I love what I do. This is a service industry, and we must serve our “customers” to the best of our ability. But I also realize that none of us are beyond reproach and will face criticism no matter what we do. I have received “nasty mails” and heard unflattering comments (yes, here at MCCC). My consolation is, some of my most critical former students now find me on Facebook and LinkedIn and tell me how much they appreciate how I have positively impacted their lives. Some are medical doctors, college administrators and professors, lawyers, engineers and many more. I did my very best to ensure that my students were inspired and motivated, but I could not want it for them more than they wanted it for themselves.
True educators go above and beyond the call of duty and provide their students with opportunities to excel. For me it has never been just a job. This, I am sure, is due to my family background and years working at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs). Students at community colleges such as MCCC are just as under-served as many at the HBCUs and MSIs, and must be encouraged to dream, hope, and believe in themselves. We cannot achieve a hundred percent success, but we have to try. Transforming and enriching lives, that is what we do – it is not just a job, it is OUR MISSION!!